Alcohol (wine, beer or liquor) is the leading known preventable cause of mental and physical birth defects in the United States. When a woman drinks alcohol during pregnancy, she risks giving birth to a child who will pay the price in mental and physical deficiencies for his or her entire life. It's estimated that each year in the United States, one in every 750 infants is born with a pattern of physical, developmental and functional problems referred to as fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), while another 40,000 are born with fetal alcohol effects (FAE). http://kidshealth.org.
The ultimate cause is alcohol intake by the pregnant mother. However, alcohol itself may not be directly responsible for all (or any) of the features of FAS. Characteristics of the syndrome may include:
Low birth weight
Small head circumference
Failure to thrive
Facial abnormalities, including smaller eye openings, flattened cheekbones and indistinct philtrum (an undeveloped groove between the nose and the upper lip).
Behavioral problems, including hyperactivity, inability to concentrate, social withdrawal, stubbornness, impulsiveness and anxiety.
Lack of imagination or curiosity, epilepsy
Although the dangers of alcohol during pregnancy had long been suspected, fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) was formally described in 1968 by P. Lemoine and colleagues from France in 127 of alcoholic parents. Alcohol is capable of causing birth defects. Alcohol is recognized as the leading teratogen to which the fetus is likely to be exposed. This applies only to societies in which alcoholic beverages are consumed. In these populations, prenatal alcohol exposure is thought to be the most common cause of mental retardation. Retardation of longitudinal growth is evident on the measurements of length in infancy and of standing height later in childhood. The growth lag is permanent. For more information on FAS please visit: http://www.medicinenet.com.
LaTasha Green, Training Specialist
a Division of Pineland CSB