If a woman drinks alcohol during pregnancy, it can seriously harm the developing fetus, and in the future affect the health and development of the child - this is called fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is one of the most worrying disorders caused by alcohol use during pregnancy. It is a lifelong condition and a major preventable cause of birth defects and mental retardation. If you notice any symptoms of FAS, see your pediatrician as soon as possible for a treatment plan to help relieve the symptoms.
Part 1 of 2: How to Recognize the Symptoms of FAS
Step 1. Become aware of your child's risk of FAS
The exact cause of FAS is alcohol consumption. The more you drank during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester, the greater the risk of your unborn fetus developing FAS. Knowing about the existing risk of developing this disease in your child, it will be easier for you to recognize it, diagnose it in a timely manner and receive treatment.
- Alcohol is passed to the developing fetus through the placenta, and the fetus's blood alcohol level is significantly higher than yours. The fetus metabolizes alcohol at a much slower rate.
- Alcohol interferes with oxygenation and nutrient delivery to your unborn baby. This can adversely affect the developing tissues and organs of the fetus, including the brain.
- You may have consumed a lot of alcohol before you found out about your pregnancy, which is why your unborn baby is at risk for FAS. Keep this in mind during and after pregnancy.
Step 2. Recognize the physical symptoms of FAS
There are many different physical symptoms of FAS, which can be mild or severe. By identifying these common features, from facial features to delayed developmental patterns, your child can be diagnosed and treated.
- Symptoms may appear while the baby is still developing in the womb or after birth. They can also manifest over time, for example in the form of behavior problems.
- The following facial features can indicate FAS: wide-set eyes; very thin upper lip; short, upturned nose; the absence of a lip fold between the nose and upper lip. A child with FAS may also have narrow and small eyes.
- FAS can be indicated by deformed joints and limbs.
- FAS may be indicated by a delayed developmental pattern before and after birth.
- FAS can indicate problems with vision and hearing.
- FAS may be indicated by a small head circumference and an underdeveloped brain.
- Heart defects and kidney problems can indicate FAS.
- Many of the symptoms of FAS mimic other diseases and conditions. If you suspect that your or someone else's child may have FAS, it is important to see a doctor and / or get a second medical opinion.
Step 3. Monitor brain function and central nervous system symptoms
FAS can also manifest as problems with the child's brain and central nervous system. Watching for common neurological symptoms such as poor memory and hyperactivity can help identify FAS, diagnose your child, and receive treatment.
- Children with FAS may have poor coordination and balance.
- Children with FAS may have mental disabilities, learning disabilities, poor memory, trouble concentrating, or hyperactivity.
- Children with FAS may have problems with the perception of information, the ability to reason and make correct inferences.
- Children with FAS may have mood swings or anxiety.
Step 4. Pay attention to social and behavioral issues
Fetal alcohol syndrome can manifest itself in social and behavioral problems. Look for common behavioral signs such as poor communication skills or impulse control to help identify FAS in your child, diagnose and receive treatment.
- Weak communication skills, including difficulty in relationships, may indicate FAS.
- A child with FAS may have difficulty in school and may find it difficult to concentrate on a task and make efforts to achieve a goal.
- A child with FAS may have difficulty adapting to change or impulse control.
- A child with FAS may have a bad timing.
Part 2 of 2: Get a diagnosis and treatment
Step 1. Make an appointment with your pediatrician
If you suspect your child has FAS, it is imperative to see a doctor and get a definitive diagnosis. Early detection of FAS and proactive intervention can reduce the risk of future problems.
- Make a list of the symptoms the child has seen to make it easier for the doctor to diagnose.
- Tell your doctor if you have consumed alcohol during pregnancy. Be sure to talk about how much and how often you drank.
- Your doctor will be able to assess your risk of FAS by reporting the amount and duration of alcohol consumption.
- If you identify symptoms of FAS but do not see your doctor, then inaction can have far-reaching consequences for your child.
Step 2. It is important to understand how the doctor diagnoses FAS
The doctor must be competent enough to give the child a definitive diagnosis. Be open and honest - this will help the doctor diagnose FAS quickly and successfully and help your child as soon as possible.
- Before making a diagnosis, your doctor will likely take into account certain factors, including: frequency of drinking during pregnancy, your baby's appearance, physical growth, and neurological development.
- The doctor may also consider: cognitive abilities and difficulties, health problems, social and behavioral problems.
Step 3. Discuss the symptoms with your doctor
After you describe your child's symptoms, the doctor will check for signs of FAS. A doctor can diagnose FAS with a simple physical examination as well as more in-depth research.
The doctor will examine your child for physical symptoms, including: wide-set eyes; very thin upper lip; short, upturned nose; narrow and small eyes; deformed joints and limbs; vision and hearing problems; small head circumference; heart defects, such as murmurs
Step 4. Get tested and find out the diagnosis
If your doctor suspects fetal alcohol syndrome, then after you undergo a physical examination, he may order you additional tests. These studies will help confirm the diagnosis and develop a comprehensive treatment plan.
- The doctor may refer you to a tomography scan of the brain, such as an MRI or CT scan.
- Blood and urine tests may be done to rule out other conditions causing similar symptoms.
- If you have not yet given birth, your doctor may order blood tests and ultrasounds.
Step 5. Get a CT or MRI scan
The doctor may need more research to confirm the diagnosis of FAS. He may refer your child for an MRI or CT scan to assess physical and neurological problems.
- CT and MRI scans of your child's brain will make it much easier for your doctor to identify brain damage. This will help him develop a better treatment plan.
- The doctor may order a CT scan, during which the child needs to lie still while the technician takes pictures of his brain. With this type of X-ray tomography, you can take a closer look at the brain and reveal the growth or development of the problem.
- The doctor may order an MRI, which also requires the child to lie quietly inside the large scanner for several minutes. An MRI will provide more detailed images of a child's severe brain damage.
Step 6. Make a treatment plan
Unfortunately, there is no cure or specific treatment for FAS. Many symptoms tend to last a lifetime. However, early intervention can help reduce some of the effects of FAS. It can even prevent some secondary dysfunctions.
- Keep in mind that early diagnosis and intervention is critical.
- Physical and mental disabilities often last for life.
- Your doctor may prescribe or suggest medications to help manage certain symptoms, such as hyperactivity. He may also recommend treatment for a variety of conditions, including heart or kidney problems.
- A doctor may suggest physical therapy, occupational therapy, and psychotherapy to improve walking, communication, and social skills.
- A doctor may suggest that your child work with a special educator to help him or her better adjust to the school environment.
- The doctor may offer family counseling.
- All pregnant women should receive regular antenatal care during pregnancy.
- FAS is definitely due to the mother's drinking and / or abuse of alcohol.
- If you are a mom-to-be and drink, it is never too late to stop. The sooner a woman stops drinking, the better the child will be.
- Any drink containing alcohol can harm the fetus.
- There is no “safe amount” of alcohol a woman can drink during pregnancy. There is also no "safe time" to drink during pregnancy. Alcohol can adversely affect the unborn baby in any trimester.