Preventing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

What is FAE, FASD, and FAS?

FAE stands for Fetal Alcohol Exposure which is when a mother exposes her unborn child to alcohol by drinking while pregnant. FASD is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder while FAS is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. FAS is one of the leading known causes of mental retardation and birth defects while FASD describes some of the range of effects that can be caused by mothers who drink alcohol while pregnant.

The websites and article below gives thorough background on the disease that is completely preventable simply by having a woman NOT drink alcohol during pregnancy.

Some facts

  • All FASDs are 100% preventable if a woman doesn't drink alcohol during pregnancy
  • FAS cause irreversible physical and mental damage
  • According to CDC studies, anywhere between 0.2 to 1.5 per 1,000 live births are diagnosed with FAS in the United States
  • Costs for one FAS child over the lifetime is estimated at approximately $2 million dollars

According to the CDC, children with FASD can exhibit the following behaviors or characteristics:

  • Small size for gestational age or small stature in relation to peers
  • Facial abnormalities such as small eye openings
  • Poor coordination
  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Learning disabilities
  • Developmental disabilities (e.g., speech and language delays)
  • Mental retardation or low IQ
  • Problems with daily living
  • Poor reasoning and judgment skills
  • Sleep and sucking disturbances in infancy

Prevention

Of course it's easy to say that in order to prevent this condition, stop drinking alcohol during pregnancy!

The article describes a randomized control trial of 830 woman between the ages of 18-44 years old that were identified as currently at risk for an Alcohol Exposed Pregnancy (AEP). The 830 woman were randomized out of a larger sample and divided into two groups: 1. Receives information with counseling 2. Receives information only.

Information was given in regards to AEP as well as risk taking pregnancy behavior although the focus was on AEP. The study shows that (through some thorough statistical analysis) overall, that the risk of AEP is cut approximately in half with the group of women who received interventions in the form of information with counseling versus the group who only received information.

This really seemed like common sense to me, but what I found interesting was that the risky behavior was still significantly high in those who WERE informed. What does this say about the risk of FAE in pregnancies and how can we better prevent them? It really makes the case for a need of a support network whether in the form of a counselor, group setting, parent, husband, etc… I've never really thought to much myself of what to do or say with my own students that are pregnant in my classroom and might still be engaging in risk taking activities. I hope this information will shed some light on some perspective within the community of those of us that are actively in touch with mothers to be.

Created by: William Hale

Footnotes
Preventing Alcohol Exposed Pregnancies
http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fas/default.htm
http://www.taconic.net/seminars/fas-a.html