We don’t hear about it too much in the news but Fetal Alcohol Syndrome typically occurs at a rate of 1 to 2 live births per every 1,000 children born in the United States. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a disease that can cause physical abnormalities because of the alcohol in the body while the child is still in utero. When women drink significantly while they are pregnant, the child might develop either FAS or Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE). FAE is a similar but less severe disease is which typically occurs at a rate of 3 to 5 live births per every 1,000 children born in the United States. Both FAS and FAE are not just childhood disorders; they cause physical and mental disabilities that are life-long.
Alcohol Detoxification in Pregnant Women
Alcohol detox or detoxification is a process by which the physical dependence to alcohol is put to an end. An individual who is suffering from alcoholism might experience alcohol withdrawal. He or she may be required to undergo various treatments to ease the pain and discomfort of the alcohol detox process.
When pregnant women go through alcohol detox early enough, it could save the child’s life as well as prevent diseases such as FAS or FAE. Research is still underway to determine the level of alcohol that is required to cause damage to a child’s growth prior to birth. Some studies indicate that moderate drinking up to one drink a day does not affect the child. Other studies point to the possibility of light drinking actually improves the health and growth of a fetus. Research indicates that drinking in the first trimester won’t affect fetal growth while drinking in the latter part of pregnancy will have the most damaging effects. In other words, current research and studies are contradictory and there is not any reliable data that points to the safest time or amount of alcohol to drink while pregnant. Of course, for any woman, for the safety of the child, abstaining from drinking is the best choice.
The Dangers of Alcohol with a Child Who Is in Utero
Yet, if a woman continues to drink, for one reason or another, a child’s life could be at stake. One reason women might drink alcohol and not ever undergo alcohol detox or seek drug treatment is when they have mixed feelings about being pregnant. Or they might be clear that they don’t want to have the child but feel obligated by their partner or perhaps even to acquire federal assistance in order to survive financially.
However, a child who is in utero with alcohol in the mother’s system might develop abnormalities. And a child with FAS is often easy to spot. Typically, he or she will have deformities to the upper lip and other abnormal facial features. He or she is likely to have the following symptoms:
- smaller heads
- deformed facial features
- abnormal joints and limbs
- poor coordination
- problems with learning
- short memories
These physical conditions in children have been associated with increased risk of being abused and maltreated in life as well as exhibiting delinquent and violent behavior later in their childhood and adulthood.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome IS Preventable
Sadly, there are many research studies that point to the association between alcohol consumption during pregnancy and the maltreatment of the child after he or she is born. What’s significant to know is that FAS and FAE are entirely preventable. Experts suggest that pregnant women be screened during prenatal visits and for those who test positive, services such as counseling, alcohol detox, and drug treatment be provided early.
What is clear is that a developing child cannot process alcohol. Alcohol in the system of the mother places a developing child at significant risk and interferes with the growth process. Certainly, there are psychological and emotional concerns to address in a pregnant woman who is drinking. Like any substance abuse, it is the psychological illness lying underneath that drives the cycle of addiction. Drug treatment can address the psychological illness of addiction. But first women must go through alcohol detox to remove the alcohol from their bodies and ensure the life of the child.