Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)
Results in some babies when alcohol is consumed during pregancy resulting in problems occuring in the baby who is exposed to alcohol via the cross over into the fetal blood stream via the placenta. Common known problems that occur can include; low birth weight, distinctive facial features, heart defects, behavioural problems in early childhood and later life and intellectual disability.
These are the common known problems; however FASD goes alot deeper than this and regardless of the appearance of the common facial features; there may still be aspects of FASD within the baby/child/adult.
At birth some of the following features may be apparent:
Head: measurements ma be smaller than normal in some case or in some cases abnormally larger.
Eyes: may appear small and may appear more widely distanced than normal.
Nose bridge: may be flattened.
Ears: may be higher or lower, malformed or unmatched in size. The helical root in the ear may be very pronounced across the ear, parallel to the upper root (like railway tracks)
Philtrum: (between the nose and the mouth) may be flat (no grooves) and may be short or long, adding to a smooth rounded look.
Upper lip: (Verrmillion- the red part) may appear very thin, and may be hair lip (slit)
Roof of the mouth: may be cleft, (not fullyformed, leaving a hole in the roof)
Face/Head: may be marked with external clusters of red blood vessels
Fingers: index and little finger may be shorter, pointy, may have partial or no nail and fingers may not open fully
Arm/ Wrist: may not rotate a full 180 degrees (halfway around- palm up, palm down)
Legs: may be stick like with large joints
Feet: may be clubbed, or turned up toward the front of the leg
Hips: may be out of place
Neural tubes: may have developed ouside the body rather than inside
Tail bone: may have a dimple just above
Baby: may be fretful, unable to suck well, difficult to settle for sleep, may resist cuddles, holding and touch. May be bothered by the feel of seams, labels and certain material. Some of these features may become less of a concern as the baby gets older.
Meconium testing which involves testing the babies first stools after birth show any alcohol use by the mother in the last 14 weeks of pregnancy. Meconium testing will also detect some other drug use as well.
Other Common related conditions linked to FASD
While the list above outlines pysical symptoms of FASD there are other related conditions that may be of lifelong health and social concerns
As you can see; FASD is a life long concern that not only impairs the life of the afflicted child or adult; it impacts on the community at many levels. In the past FASD has been viewed in regard to it's birth symptoms but this outlines many other issues that may missed or diagnosed later as ADHD, ODD, autism or learning disorder non specific. A more accurate diagnosis may not change the diagnosis but it can improve the supports put in place as well as reduce the likelyhood of further children being born with this syndrome within a family if parents are provided with support and education.
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