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Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in Adults

a man sits in the window as he considers the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome in adulthood

The effects of alcohol use and alcoholism can extend to the person who is drinking and the individual’s loved ones. A clear example of this is fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). This condition occurs when a mother is pregnant and continues to drink during her pregnancy. It can have a lasting impact on the child that lasts throughout their lifetime. Seeking treatment for alcohol use 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. For more information about women’s addiction treatment options at our alcohol addiction treatment program, please contact Vertava Health today at 888.601.8693.

What Is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?

Fetal alcohol syndrome is a type of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) that develops due to a mother’s alcohol consumption during pregnancy. This condition can cause several health complications in the fetus, including low birth weight, cognitive disabilities, and developmental problems.

FAS happens when substances ingested by the mother while pregnant can reach the fetus through the placenta. A mother’s alcohol consumption can cause the baby not to 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 break down the alcohol.

The lack of nutrition and oxygen can result in neurological and physical damage in the unborn child. While some FAS symptoms are treatable, many are not and will last throughout the child’s lifetime.

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.

Physical Effects

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 than others due to 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 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 several 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
  • Hyperactivity or impulsivity
  • Poor social skills
  • Trouble completing tasks
  • Higher susceptibility to certain mental health disorders
  • Increased risk of drug and alcohol use and addiction

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 arrest and incarceration rate 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 this condition’s developmental and mental effects. For example, a person may steal because they don’t understand the concept of ownership.

Other secondary effects that a person may experience due to 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 cope with life successfully. 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 dependence 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.

Our women’s treatment programs are designed specifically for the unique needs of pregnant women and mothers struggling with addiction. We offer comprehensive care that includes detox, residential treatment, and aftercare planning. Our programs are led by a team of highly trained and experienced medical and behavioral health professionals. For instance, we may offer treatments such as:

  • Animal-assisted therapy
  • Adventure therapy
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Family therapy

We understand that pregnant women and mothers face unique challenges when it comes to addiction and recovery. Our programs are designed to help women overcome these challenges and achieve long-term recovery.

Seek Treatment at Vertava Health

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, don’t wait to get help. Your life and the life of your unborn baby can depend on it. Contact Vertava Health at 888.601.8693 today to learn more about our women’s treatment programs. We can help you get on the path to a bright future.