The Effects Alcohol

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a condition affecting children born to women who drink heavily during pregnancy. There are three criteria used to describe the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure and to make a diagnosis of FAS. The first of these is a pattern of facial anomalies, these features include: ? Small eye openings ? Flat cheekbones ?

Flattened groove between nose and upper lip ? Thin upper lip These characteristics can gradually diminish as the child ages, but it is important to note that diagnosis does not change because of this. The second criteria is growth deficiencies: ? Low birth weight ? Decelerating weight over time, not due to malnutrition ? Disproportional low weight to height ? Height and weight below the tenth percentile The third criteria used to diagnosis FAS are brain injury. This includes: ? Decreased head size ?

Behavioral and/or cognitive problems such as: mental handicap; learning difficulties; problems with memory; problems with social perception ? Neurological problems (impaired motor skills, poor coordination, hearing loss) A person diagnosed with FAS may show one or more characteristics listed above, and there is a great variability in the outcome. ( McCreight, 1997) Partial FAS is the recommended term used to describe the cluster of problems facing those who have some of the characteristic facial abnormalities associated with FAS, and one other component of FAS such as: growth deficiency; behavioral and cognitive problems or brain injury.

This is only of course if it is known that there was significant prenatal exposure to alcohol. (Abel, 1984) Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) a term no longer used, refers to the cognitive and behavioral problems that may affect those with Partial FAS. FAE has often been used indiscriminately to label individuals with these problems, whether it not it was known they had been exposed to alcohol in the uterus. It is now recommended that the term FAE no longer be used, instead the more specific terms Partial FAS (PFAS) be used when applicable. ( Blume, 1996) Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome NAS describes the presence of withdrawal symptoms in infants exposed to one or more drugs during pregnancy. These drugs may include: alcohol, narcotics, sedatives, anti-convulsants and others.

Some of the symptoms of NAS include wakefulness, irritability, diarrhea, vomiting, respiratory distress and lack of sucking. (Abel, 1966) Alcohol-related birth defects that may be present to those born with FAS can easily be identified because of the cluster of characteristic features involving facial appearance, growth and brain damage. Children born to mothers that drink heavily in pregnancy may also have serious congenital birth defects such as : ? Heart defects; ? Kidney and other internal organ problems; ? Skeleton abnormalities; ? Cleft palate and other facial abnormalities; ? Vision and hearing problems.

These are known as alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD). The range of these birth defects is likely due to such factors as: 1. variations in the timing of alcohol use; 2. variations in the amount of alcohol used; 3. use of one or more substance that can cause birth defects; 4. and many other individual and genetic factors. ( Villarreal, 1992.) It is not known how much alcohol a woman can safely drink. However, it is known that the more alcohol a pregnant woman consumes, the greater the range and severity of problems to the developing fetus.

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