Foetal Alcohol Syndrome

For years, it's been known that an excess of alcohol during pregnancy will almost certainly lead to foetal alcohol syndrome, which causes facial and nervous system abnormalities and growth problems. There is no cure for foetal alcohol syndrome.
But now, scientists are saying that even a small amount of alcohol consumed can bring about what's known as foetal alcohol spectrum disorders, characterised by problems with learning and remembering; understanding and following directions; controlling emotions; communicating and socialising; and daily life skills like feeding and bathing. The medical fraternity is even saying that any intake of alcohol is worse than smoking while pregnant. Controversially, Dr Neil Aiton, a paediatrician at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust says, 'If it is a choice between a drink, a smoke or a spliff then 'don't drink', would be my recommendation'. NO DETOX FOR BABY During pregnancy, the placenta acts as a pathway and filter for nutrients. However, it doesn't appear to have any effect on ethanol or toxic metabolites like acetaldehyde ' both of which come from alcohol. The developing foetal nervous system is particularly sensitive to the toxicity of ethanol. What's more, foetal tissues are very different from adult tissues in function and purpose ' the upshot is that the foetal liver is completely unable to detoxify ethanol, and the foetus is exposed to ethanol in the amniotic fluid for far longer than the mother is exposed to it. So, drinking during pregnancy offers a double whammy ' more toxic exposure for longer, without a means to detoxify. OLD NEWS Nearly two decades ago, two research studies showed six main secondary disabilities from foetal alcohol syndrome and alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder. Mental health Over 90% of participants in the study had been diagnosed with ADHD, clinical depression or another mental illness Educational disruption About 60% of participants aged 12 or older experienced suspension or expulsion from school, or dropped out Legal issues Again, 60% of participants over the age of 12 had been charged with or convicted of a crime Locked up Around 50% of participants over the age of 12 had been confined at some time or another for psychiatric care, jailed for a crime, or were an inpatient for chemical dependency care Inappropriate sexuality Promiscuity, sexual touching or advances were experienced by 50% of participants over the age of 12 Addiction Around 35% of participants over the age of 12 experienced substance abuse or dependency issues Interestingly, Clinical Social Worker and author, Diane Malbin says that certain interests and strengths have been recognised in people diagnosed with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders and recommends using these strengths in treatment. These include: music, playing instruments, composing, singing; art, spelling, reading, computers, mechanics, woodworking, skilled vocations (welding, electrician, etc.), writing, poetry; and participation in non-impact sport or physical fitness activities. WHAT'S THE LIMIT? While the experts agree it's imperative to completely eliminate alcohol from your diet when you want to fall pregnant or are pregnant, what about women who haven't yet discovered they are pregnant? Does a few drinks in the first few weeks of pregnancy spell doom and gloom for your child? According to a recent report in Harvard Health Publications, you shouldn't worry overmuch. There's no consensus yet, but the prevailing belief is that it's the third trimester that's really important from an abstinence perspective. While there's certainly no encouragement for women to drink at all during pregnancy, most medical professionals still claim it's safe to consume one or two units of alcohol a week. A unit is defined as 175ml glass of wine. A study conducted in 2012 in Holland indicated that low to moderate drinking during pregnancy didn't affect executive functioning (the ability to perform activities like planning, organising, remembering details, strategising and managing time) among 5 year olds. did you know? One unit is 10ml of pure alcohol. It takes the average adult around an hour to process this amount so that there's none left in their bloodstream, although this varies from person to person. RATHER BE SAFE While there's no true consensus on limits, there is scientific evidence that alcohol has the potential to severely damage your unborn child. It makes complete sense to be cognisant of everything you put into your body while you are pregnant, and unless you are an alcoholic, it's a no-brainer to abstain for the whole of your pregnancy.

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