An Estimated 40,000 Children Born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Every Year

Baby in the hospital.

Alcohol use during pregnancy is the leading preventable cause of learning disabilities, birth defects and developmental disabilities in children. The term Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD) refers to the varying range of effects that can occur to an individual who was exposed to alcohol prenatally. An estimated 40,000 babies are born in the United States each year with FASD.

“There is no safe amount of alcohol when a woman is pregnant. Evidence-based research has found that drinking even small amounts of alcohol while pregnant can increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity, or sudden infant death syndrome.”

Alcohol is toxic to developing babies and can cause brain damage and other birth defects. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that “There is no safe amount of alcohol when a woman is pregnant. Evidence-based research has found that drinking even small amounts of alcohol while pregnant can increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity, or sudden infant death syndrome.”

There has been a long-standing myth that the occasional glass of wine during pregnancy is ok. however, even just one glass will still have an effect on a baby that is developing in the womb. Developing babies are unable to process alcohol because their livers are not fully formed. When pregnant mothers drink alcohol their baby will absorb all of the alcohol that is consumed and will have the same blood alcohol content (BAC) as their mothers.

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), 12% of pregnant women admitted to drinking alcohol in the previous month and 2% were binge drinking during that time. Other data collected by NIH indicates that 20-30% of women have consumed alcohol at some point during their pregnancy. Almost half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned which can unintentionally lead to drinking in the first trimester. The majority of women in the United States reduce or discontinue alcohol use once they learn they are pregnant.

While it is true that any sort of drug has the potential to cause negative damage to unborn babies, alcohol can perhaps be the most dangerous—despite the fact that it is legal to consume. The Institute of Medicine has been quoted as saying that “Of all substances of abuse (including cocaine, heroin, and marijuana), alcohol produces by far the most serious neurobehavioral effects in the fetus.”


Potential Effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorders:

  • Learning disabilities
  • Difficulty with reasoning and judgment
  • Abnormal facial characteristics
  • Brain damage
  • Growth deficits
  • Heart, kidney and lung defects
  • Memory and attention problems
  • Poor coordination
  • Motor skill delays
  • Hyperactivity
  • Behavior problems
  • Incorrect development of the nervous system, organs, and bones
  • Increased likelihood of having problems in school

Steps to Reduce the Amount of FASD in the United States:

  • Promoting the use of birth control for women who regularly drink alcohol and are in their childbearing years to lower the rates of drinking in early unplanned pregnancy.
  • Increased screening by medical professionals for alcohol-use disorders in women of childbearing age.
  • Expanding access to alcohol addiction treatment programs for women who are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant and are having difficulty stopping drinking.
  • Increasing public awareness about the dangers of drinking alcohol while pregnant.
  • Increased education regarding the fact that there is no safe amount of alcohol to drink while pregnant.

Resources:

AUTHOR

Julie

Certified Addiction Counselor and Staff Member at Narconon Colorado.

NARCONON COLORADO

DRUG EDUCATION AND REHABILITATION