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is a condition that is caused by high alcohol exposure levels to a fetus while in the womb resulting in both physical and mental complications. The alcohol passes through the placenta and is processed differently for a fetus compared to an adult. It can block nutrition and oxygen (Landgraf, Nothacker, Kopp & Heinen, 2013).
of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome
Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)
- is the overarching term used to describe the different disorders and syndromes that result from alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
The central nervous system (CNS) is one area that is greatly affected by FAS, and more specifically the brain. Different parts of the brain can be affected which is dependent on the stage of development that the alcohol is exposed, along with the amount of alcohol that has been consumed (Ponnappa & Rubin, 2000).
Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is one of the most common developmental abnormalities. It is the most severe case of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) and can be completely preventable. Consuming alcohol while pregnant can cause major disadvantages to the unborn child both physically and mentally. Facial characteristics alter, as well as certain brain structures that stunt development. The amount of alcohol consumed, and the stage of development in which the fetus is exposed to the alcohol, help to determine the severity of damage caused. Foetal alcohol syndrome is not curable but can be monitored through early detection. It is important for all women to be aware of the effects that alcohol causes on their unborn baby to make well educated decisions. Their actions whilst pregnant can have a very significant impact on the physiological development of their child.
Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)
Partial Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS)
Alcohol-related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND)
Alcohol-related Birth Defects (ARBD) (Landgraf, Nothacker, Kopp & Heinan, 2013).
Physical effects of FAS are identified once the baby is born. There are distinctive features about the developing baby's body and their face. Physical damages do vary between people and may show only a couple of distinctive physical features (Jones & Streissguth, 2013).
It is also possible however that people who do not have FAS naturally have some of these features.
People born with FAS are likely to have low birth weights. It is also commonly found that those people will continue to grow with lower heights and weights than the average for their age and gender (Jones & Streissguth, 2013).
FAS sufferers have very distinctive facial features. The most common features of FAS are small eye openings, a thin upper lip, short nose, and flattened area between the upper lip and nose (Jones & Streissguth, 2013).
Cerebral Cortex -
is the outer layer of the brain that is responsible for processing information such as speech, emotions, behaviour and controlling motor functions.
is the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory.
is the part of the brain that is associated with coordination and balance.
Alcohol effects the cerebral cortex by thinning or disorganizing the forming layer. A lack of dendritic branching impedes thinking processes. The location of neurons change, making if difficult for them to develop appropriately. There is also a decrease in synapses leaving only immature ones which may cause learning difficulties (Ponnappa & Rubin, 2000).
Alcohol reduces the neurons within the hippocampus which can explain the cognitive defects that occur from FAS. It is possible that the neurons decrease by 20 percent. Cells also die which can result in greats amount of unnecessary apoptosis (Ponnappa & Rubin, 2000).
The alcohol exposure reduces the number of synaptic contacts which effects the ability to control movement (Ponnappa & Rubin, 2000).
. Six week old baby brains (FASlink, n.d).
Ponnappa & Rubin (2000) researched the effects alcohol has on different parts of the brain:
. Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FASlink, n.d).
Idrus and Thomas (2011) researched ways that could help treat FAS.
have a well balanced diet as the alcohol has interrupted the appropriate nutrition that was trying to go to the fetus.
have been researched and show promise, however there is still no clear outcome.
an environment that encourages motor and sensory movement and development may help with the affects of FAS.
Foetal Alcohol Syndrome is one of the most common developmental issues that can be prevented. Drinking while pregnant can lead to stunted growth and can significantly affect the way the brain develops. Expecting mothers should be aware of the dangers that come with prenatal alcohol consumptions. There is no safe amount of alcohol to consume during pregnancy.
Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Chart (FASlink, n.d).
FASlink. (n.d). Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. Retrieved from http://www.faslink.org/katoc.htm
FASlink. (n.d). Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Chart. Retrieved from http://faslink.org/katoc.htm
FASlink. (n.d). Six week old baby brains. Retrieved from http://faslink.org/katoc.htm
Idrus, N., & Thomas, J. (2011). Foetal alcohol spectrum disorders: Experimental treatments
and strategies for intervention.
Alcohol Health & Research World, 34
Retrieved from http:// web.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.canberra.edu.au/ehost/
Landgraf, M., Nothacker, M., Kopp, I., & Heinen, F. (2013). The diagnosis of foetal alcohol
Deutsches Arzteblatt International, 110,
703-710. Retrieved from
Jones, K., & Streissguth, A. (2010). Foetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol spectrum
disorders: A brief history. Journal of Psychiatry & Law, 38, 373-382. Retrieved from
Ponnappa, C., & Rubin, E. (2000). Modeling alcohol's effects on organs in animal models.
Alcohol Research & Health, 24, 93-104. Retrieved from
Alcohol effects not only the brain and physical attributes, but can also effect vision, hearing, and attention span (Landgraf, Nothacker, Kopp & Heinan, 2013).
the death of cells that occur as part of growth and development.
However, based on Ponnappa & Rubin (2000) and Jones & Streissguth's (2013) research, treatment most likely will not have a massive effect on FAS as the damage has already occurred quite some time before these factors can be introduced. They may however still have slight advantages to the well-being of FAS sufferers.
It is important to be aware of these syndromes as they may not be initially noticed. Understanding what to look for could be helpful for parents who have adopted or used a surrogate to have a child. As drinking while you are pregnant may not be something that would be shared. Which could leave the new parents feeling unprepared or worried.