In our country, the consumption of alcohol by a pregnant mother is the predominant preventable cause of birth defects, both mental and physical in nature. More specifically, this is known as fetal alcohol syndrome, which is when a child is born with issues related to their mental, physical, and functional development due to maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Such problems occur annually in one out of every 750 births in our country. What’s more, an additional 40,000 infants are born each year with similar, albeit milder effects from the mother’s consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. As you can see, this is a serious issue in our society with ramifications that trickle years and decades down the line. Once a child is influenced by fetal alcohol syndrome, those developmental issues are permanent, they are not entirely reversible, and can get even worse as the child gets older and matures into adulthood. For this reason, it is vital that mothers and loved ones seek help when a pregnancy may be in jeopardy.
Treating The Issue
The way that alcohol works its way through the body of a pregnant woman, it can easily enter the placenta where the fetus has an extremely difficult time eliminating the substance. What’s more, alcohol is known to be present in the fetus longer resulting in potentially permanent damage. Additionally, if consumed during the first trimester, alcohol can alter the way the child’s brain develops during this time. This is generally the most common time for mothers to consume alcohol, as they may not know they are pregnant right away.
This, of course, is not to say that the other stages of pregnancy are not vulnerable to a mother’s alcohol consumption. Such carelessness, even in the final months of pregnancy, can result in serious defects including those to the nervous system and other aspects crucial to an infant’s development.
When a pregnant mother is unable to abstain from drinking alcohol, it is a definite sign that there is a problem. More than likely, in such a case there is a serious addiction to alcohol at the root of the issue. And for those pregnant women that think occasional alcohol consumption is acceptable, their habits should be checked as well.
Treatment For Mothers After Child Birth
Even after a child is born and they do not have any signs of fetal alcohol syndrome, if the parent continues to abuse alcohol, the child and anyone else in the family can still be influenced. Alcoholism is a serious issue that should be treated as soon as possible. The longer it goes untreated, the more issues it can cause. While any treatment is better than no treatment, checking into a rehab program with treatment options such as Alcoholics Anonymous can really turn someone’s life around, and ultimately find them recovery and sobriety.
Seeking treatment is the best choice for a pregnant or nursing mother that has a dependency on alcohol consumption. If someone has an addiction to alcohol and is pregnant, the earlier that help is sought, the better it will be for both the mother and child. The more alcohol that is consumed, along with higher frequencies, the higher the probability is that the child will have some sort of effects from fetal alcohol syndrome.
How Alcohol Consumption Affects Child Growth
Once a child is born, the effects of alcohol abuse by the mother earlier on in her pregnancy can be apparent rather quickly. What’s more, as the child grows older, those signs may only intensify to the point of becoming blatantly obvious. Additionally, there are many signs to look for in a developing child that subsequently serve as early indicators of fetal alcohol syndrome, or at least similar issues.
Such symptoms include:
- Undersized head development
- Problems with vital organs
- Physical abnormalities, including the face and other obvious parts of the body
- Underweight at birth
- Epileptic seizures
- Subpar motor skills and development of hand-eye coordination
- Difficulty developing social skills, including making friends and interacting with peers
- Appearance of ADD/ADHD
These are only some of the signs of fetal alcohol syndrome. The tricky part is that these symptoms can also relate to a number of other unrelated issues in a child, and should not automatically be assumed to be due to alcohol consumption by the mother during pregnancy. In other words, it would be inaccurate and unfair to assume that every child that demonstrates the aforementioned symptoms has a mother that abused alcohol during the pregnancy.
How to Prevent Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
The hardest part about a mother consuming even small amounts of alcohol while pregnant is that there is no way to tell how much or how little alcohol consumption can result in birth defects. For some women, even small amounts of alcohol during pregnancy may have disastrous effects on their unborn child. Because everyone’s body is different, they process alcohol differently. This is not to forget that other factors also play into the equation such as age, food consumption, timing of alcohol ingestion, and frequency. Generally speaking, obvious appearances of fetal alcohol syndrome occur in cases where the mother drinks large quantities and does so frequently. Still, it is better to be safe and not drink any alcohol at all during pregnancy, opposed to risking the chance of having a child with birth defects.
If a pregnant woman has even the slightest doubt that they will not be able to abstain from drinking alcohol during their nine-month pregnancy, it is best to seek help from a treatment program that will ensure they stay away from alcohol. Just because someone seeks help for such an issue does not necessarily mean they are an alcoholic. It means that they care about their body and realize that one slip in judgment could have huge ramifications for their child down the road. Beyond seeking help, it is best for mothers that are trying to get, or think they may already be pregnant, to actively change their habits to a healthier lifestyle.
Stay Away From Alcohol When Pregnant
It goes without saying that a woman’s alcohol consumption while pregnant can have serious repercussions for her child. Fetal alcohol syndrome is a critical issue that does not simply go away with a child’s age. In fact, children that have been affected by their mother’s alcohol abuse often have physical and developmental symptoms that only get worse with age unless monitored and treated. For such reasons, it is vital that everything possible is done in order to help pregnant and nursing mothers stay away from even small amounts of alcohol consumption. In turn, it will directly prevent fetal alcohol syndrome and many related issues.