The effects of alcohol abuse and alcoholism can extend not only to the person who is drinking but also to the individual’s loved ones. A clear example of this is fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). This condition, which occurs when a mother is pregnant and continues to drink during her pregnancy, can have a lasting impact on the child that lasts throughout his or her lifetime.
Seeking treatment for alcohol abuse or addiction before becoming pregnant or as soon as a person learns of her pregnancy is the best way to prevent fetal alcohol syndrome. Vertava Health offers treatment programs that can help a woman overcome an alcohol use disorder and lead a healthy life in sobriety.
What Is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?
Fetal alcohol syndrome is a type of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) that develops as a result of a mother’s alcohol consumption during pregnancy. This condition can cause a number of health complications in the fetus, including low birth weight, mental retardation, and developmental problems.
FAS happens due to the fact that substances ingested by the mother while pregnant can reach the fetus through the placenta. A mother’s alcohol consumption can cause the baby to not receive enough oxygen and nutrients while in the womb. It can also cause physical problems in the fetus as a result of the fetus’ inability to breakdown the alcohol it is exposed to.
The lack of nutrition and oxygen can result in neurological and physical damage in the unborn child. While some of the symptoms of FAS are treatable, many are not and will last throughout the child’s lifetime.
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Effects Of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome In Adulthood
Fetal alcohol syndrome is a condition that can affect an individual far beyond infancy and childhood. In fact, many people with FAS have difficulty as a result of the condition into adulthood and the rest of their lives.
The physical effects of fetal alcohol syndrome are one of the most prominent symptoms of this condition. For example, many people with FAS are smaller in stature and shorter than other individuals as a result of development and growth problems caused by the condition.
Additional physical effects of FAS that are apparent in adulthood may include:
- organ defects
- bone growth issues
- flattened philtrum (groove in the upper lip)
- smaller head circumference
- smaller than normal eye openings
- small or absent palpebral fissures (the space between the corner of the eye closest to the nose)
- thinner upper lip
- low and short nose bridge
- flattened cheekbones
- small jaw
Some of these physical defects may be minor or even unnoticeable. However, some deformities in the facial area can signify brain damage in the individual.
Mental And Neurological Effects
Physical symptoms are not the only way in which FAS can impact a person’s life. Many individuals with this condition also experience significant mental and developmental problems as well.
Fetal alcohol syndrome can directly damage the central nervous system, resulting in structural and neurological deficiencies. These deficiencies can cause a number of issues as the person develops into a child and adult. In fact, many individuals with FAS require specialized care to cope with their condition.
The mental effects that may occur as a result of FAS include:
- learning disabilities
- poor memory
- low IQ
- poor social skills
- trouble completing tasks
- higher susceptibility to certain mental health disorders
- increased risk of drug and alcohol abuse and addiction
- mental retardation
- hearing disorders
Some individuals with fetal alcohol syndrome may show no signs or symptoms of this condition after infancy. However, many people with FAS will struggle with this condition for the rest of their lives.
Secondary Effects Of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome In Adulthood
In addition to the physical and mental effects of fetal alcohol syndrome discussed above, adults with FAS are also at an increased risk of the secondary effects of this condition. One significant secondary effect of FAS is the increased risk of legal trouble.
Individuals with fetal alcohol syndrome often have a significantly higher rate of arrest and incarceration than people without this condition. In fact, studies have shown that up to half of all people with FAS will experience trouble with the law at least once in their lifetime. Crimes committed by individuals with FAS are often due to the developmental and mental effects of this condition. For example, a person may steal because he or she is unable to understand the concept of ownership.
Other secondary effects that a person may experience as a result of FAS include trouble maintaining a steady job, difficulty finding and keeping housing, and money management. According to a study performed by the University of Washington, an estimated 79 percent of people with FAS had difficulty with steady employment.
Many individuals with FAS require specialized care to successfully cope with life. With help, many people with FAS are able to lead productive and relatively independent lives.
How To Prevent Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
The best way to prevent fetal alcohol syndrome is for the mother to abstain from alcohol during pregnancy. There is no amount of alcohol that is considered safe while pregnant. If you are a woman who is pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant and are struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction, the best decision you can make for your unborn child is to seek treatment. Vertava Health offers several treatment programs that can help women get and stay sober.
To learn more about fetal alcohol syndrome in adults, contact an Vertava Health’ treatment specialist today.