Alcohol Consumption During Pregnancy
One of the cardinal rules of pregnancy has been to never consume alcohol. The effects of alcohol consumption during pregnancy has been linked to fetal harm and developmental delays. As alcohol is consumed, it travels via the maternal blood to the fetus. Once in the fetus’s blood, alcohol takes longer to breakdown prolonging it’s exposure, and consequently it’s effects, on the fetus. Depending on which stage the fetus is exposed to alcohol, different stages of development and subsequently different organ systems can be effected.
The group of defects associated with alcohol consumption during pregnancy is known as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). These defects span a wide range of organ systems and phenotypic changes. It should be noted that because most of these changes occur while the fetus is developing, most of the changes associated with FAS are permanent. Some of the more notable effects of FAS include:
Phenotype refers to a set of observable characteristics of an individual. Features often associated with fetal alcohol syndrome include growth deficiencies as well as facial features such as a short nose, small head circumference, small eye opening, a thin upper lip, a low nasal bridge and small mid-face.
Alcohol can affect many neurological systems and have been linked to developmental delays. Learning disabilities in attention, memory and social perception and interaction have been noted. Delays in developmental milestones such as walking & speech as well as cognitive deficits such as a lower IQ have also been correlated with FAS.
Other Related Defects
Other defects, which have shown a high correlation with alcohol consumption during pregnancy, involve different organ systems. Heart defects such as murmurs as well as defects in the structure of the heart such as septal defects have been noted. Significant kidneys abnormalities such as under developed or mal developed kidneys, have also been linked to FAS.
It is important to note that many of these changes can occur in the very early stages of pregnancy while the mother is unaware she is pregnant. During such a period, if a woman consumed alcohol, they may be unknowingly causing damage to their unborn child. If you or someone you know may be trying to get pregnant, it is important to restrict the use of alcohol to make sure the early critical periods of fetal development are not effected by alcohol. Fortunately, fetal alcohol syndrome can easily be prevented by not consuming any alcohol. By not doing so, you can help ensure your child develops and grows happy and healthy.