Symptoms and Facial Features of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Pregnant women must stop drinking because alcohol can be really dangerous for the baby. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) for the baby. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome has very distinct facial features that are really different from normal facial features. The deformities in the facial feature are the most noticeable symptoms. However, this disorder also can cause some brain and development problems that will affect the baby’s future and life. As a mother, of course you want the best for your baby and you want your baby to be happy and healthy throughout his or her life. Therefore, here are some important information about this disorder so you can prevent it from happening to your precious child.
About Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
There is only one main cause of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. That is when the mother drinks alcohol during pregnancy. This is possible because the fetus will get food and nutrition from the mother’s blood stream, which means when the mother drinks, the baby will also consume the alcohol and get affected by it.
The alcohol won’t give too much problems for the mother except some hangovers. But it is completely different for the fetus. The mother is an adult and she has completely functioning kidney and liver. So, her vital organs can filter the toxin from the alcohol and get rid of it from the mother’s body.
On the other hand, the fetus doesn’t have fully functioning liver. In fact this organ is not fully developed until the very last stage of pregnancy. Thus, the baby doesn’t have an organ that will help filtering the toxins from the alcohol, and in result, the alcohol will directly damage the baby’s cells. When the cells are damaged, the development of the brain and body will be inhibited. So, baby whose mother drinks alcohol during pregnancy is in high risks of birth deformities and late mental development and even miscarriage.
The problem with this disorder is it cannot be diagnosed until the baby is born and some physical and other symptoms are shown. There is also no clear information on how much alcohol can affect the baby’s development. Alcohol can be very dangerous for the baby in any stage of pregnancy and you just don’t know what is going to happen to your baby until it happens. So, when you are pregnant, it is best if you avoid drinking altogether at least until the breastfeeding stage is completed.
Facial Features of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
The most common symptom from a baby with FAS is the deformities in the facial feature. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome has very distinct facial features and it becomes the first noticeable sign that the baby is suffering from FAS. Here are some of the most distinctive features we can clearly see:
- The baby has smaller head and jaw size compared to other normal babies.
- The eyes are small and the upper lids are usually drooping. In most cases, the eyes are set far apart from each other.
- The upper lip is slightly drooping and very thin that it looks very different compared to the lower lip.
- The philtrum (the divot between the nose and the upper lip) is smooth.
Those facial features can slightly get better and less noticeable when the baby grows. But it will also depend on the severity of the disorder. Baby with mild cases of FAS sometimes only show one or two of those deformities. Medium cases usually have all those characteristics but the standard deviation may fall below average. Meanwhile, for the most severe cases which happen because the mother drunk too much alcohol during pregnancy, all the deformities exist with high standard deviation.
Other Symptoms of FAS
The facial deformity is just one of many symptoms. Just because the facial features are alright, it doesn’t mean that the baby doesn’t suffer from this disorder so thorough checkup will be needed if the mom drinks during the pregnancy. Besides the distinctive facial features, here are some other symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome:
- Growth Deficiency
Growth deficiency is very common in child with FAS, especially in preemies who was born below normal weight. Child with FAS’s weight and height is usually under the normal 10th percentiles. In the most severe cases, the growth can even go under the third percentile.
- Structural Abnormality
This happens when there are some abnormalities in the physical structure of the brain that will cause some memory, emotional and even visual problems. The most common disorder in this category is microcephaly or hydrocephalus.
- Functional or Behavior Problem
Prenatal alcohol exposure can also cause behavioral problem for the kids. Due to the abnormalities of the brain structure or the damage in the central nervous system, the child can suffer from behavioral and developmental problem such as learning disabilities, low IQ, inability to socialize and communicate, as well as some motoric problems. If those behavioral problems are not treated, it is possible that the children will face mental health problem, dependency and even trouble with laws when they enter adulthood.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a lifetime disorder. Up to this date, there is no medical breakthrough or technology that can cure or at least prevent it from happening. So, when your child is diagnosed with this disorder, the best thing you can do is to address the issue as soon as possible. You can hire speech and development therapists to help address your child’s behavioral problem and late mental development. You can also take him to child psychologists to help your child cope with his condition. Medical care will also be very beneficial to treat the medical condition this disorder brings.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome has very distinctive facial features and your child will have it for the rest of his life. The facial deformities will be hard for them let alone the growth deficiency or the behavioral problem. Since there is no specific treatment for this disorder, the best thing you can do is to prevent it. Avoid drinking during your pregnancy for your baby’s sake and your baby will definitely be born healthy.