It is considered risky to drink any amount of alcohol during pregnancy. Babies simply cannot process alcohol in the same ways as adults, and drinking interferes with necessary oxygen flow and nutrient intake. In addition, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).
FAS refers to a chronic condition often diagnosed in childhood. FAS can severely affect one’s physical and mental development. While there is currently no cure, treatment options exist. Let’s get into what you need to know.
What Is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?
FAS can occur when a pregnant mother drinks alcohol during her pregnancy. During this time, trace amounts of alcohol cross into the placenta and into the fetus. The effects of alcohol on the unborn child can result in:
- Nerve cell damage.
- Lack of oxygen and essential nutrients.
- Brain damage.
- Other forms of abnormal development.
Many times, physicians can diagnose FAS in newborns. A baby with FAS may be underweight at birth and fail to meet appropriate growth milestones. They may also have congenital disabilities and problems associated with the ears, heart, kidneys, and eyes. In addition, they may show signs of delayed development or mental retardation.
The intensity of symptoms varies. Some people will experience more severe issues than others, but symptoms can progressively worsen.
Understanding FAS in Adulthood
Because FAS is chronic, the symptoms persist into adulthood. Unfortunately, there are limited studies on how FAS affects lifespan development. In some cases, cognitive deficits appear to resolve or improve on their own. However, in other cases, symptoms may become more exacerbated over time.
Some of the common physical symptoms include:
- Smaller head circumference (and smaller brain size).
- Vision problems.
- Joint or limb deformities.
- Thin upper lips.
- Short, upturned nose.
- A smooth, flat surface between the nose and upper lip (instead of the usual crease).
- Hearing difficulties.
Some of the common psychological, development symptoms include:
- Poor social skills.
- Lack of impulse control.
- Memory problems.
- Hyperactivity or inattentiveness.
- Low IQ.
- Poor concentration and focus.
- Increased risk for addiction or other mental health problems.
Research shows that 90% of adults with FAS report mental health problems, 70% have faced legal issues, and 45% have drug or alcohol problems. Depression and anxiety are particularly comorbid with FAS.
What Are the Treatment Options for FAS?
According to the CDC, it is important to note that FAS looks different for everyone. With that in mind, early intervention can drastically improve someone’s outcome. These services can begin as early as 0-3 years old, and they may include combinations of occupational, nutritional, and talk therapies.
People with FAS require the same basic medical needs as everyone else. For example, children need adequate nutrition, vaccinations, exercise, and appropriate hygiene. But they may also need to meet with specialists who can provide individualized care.
Currently, there are no FDA-approved medications specifically intended for FAS. However, many different medications can improve symptoms associated with this condition. Some options may include:
- Antidepressants (to help with mood regulation and social skills).
- Anti-anxiety medications (for treating anxiety symptoms).
- Neuroleptics (for managing behavioral or emotional outbursts).
Some medications have the potential to be habit-forming. It is important to discuss any concerns you may have with your doctor. If you notice problematic side effects, address them immediately.
In addition to medication and professional therapy, other alternative treatment options may include a combination of:
- Creative art therapies.
- Yoga and other restorative exercises.
- Massage and Reiki work.
- Animal-assisted therapies.
It also goes without saying that seeking and maintaining a level of ongoing support is critical. People with FAS may need routine assistance and supervision with specific tasks. They might also need reassurance and empowerment when life becomes difficult. Ideally, loved ones are available to offer such guidance.
The most straightforward solution for avoiding FAS is for mothers to avoid drinking any alcohol while pregannt. As mentioned, no amount is considered safe.
However, some women may find it difficult to stop drinking during pregnancy. If this is the case for you, it is important to seek professional help as soon as possible. You may be putting your baby’s life in grave danger. Contact us today at (866) 578-7471 to get the support you need.