Foetal Alcohol Syndrome
- What is foetal alcohol syndrome?
- What are the possible effects of foetal alcohol syndrome?
- Can I drink at all during my pregnancy?
- Can foetal alcohol syndrome be prevented?
What is foetal alcohol syndrome?
Foetal alcohol syndrome refers to a number of defects a baby can be born with, as a result of their mother's alcohol abuse during pregnancy.
The exact amount of alcohol that causes this condition is unknown, although binge drinking is known to be particularly harmful. Foetal alcohol syndrome, however, is a rare condition, which only occurs if there is persistent alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
Foetal alcohol syndrome occurs in about one-third of babies born to women who drink at least 18 units of alcohol per day during pregnancy. (18 units is the equivalent of around nine pints of beer). While this sounds like a huge amount of alcohol, this would not be unusual for an alcoholic who continues to drink during their pregnancy. They are especially at risk of injuring their unborn baby.
Women who drink less than this on a regular basis, throughout pregnancy, are more likely to have a miscarriage or deliver a small, low-weight baby.
What are the possible effects of foetal alcohol syndrome?
- Delayed mental development, mental disability or brain malformation.
- Small head, small brain and a face with 'squashed up' features.
- Low birth weight and possible growth problems after birth.
- Behavioural problems, such as ADD (attention deficit disorder).
- Cardiac defects such as a heart murmur.
- Cleft palate
- Joint abnormalities
- Irritable baby who has a poor suck and sleeps badly.
Can I drink at all during my pregnancy?
While there is no evidence that an occasional glass of wine or beer is dangerous, most doctors would advise pregnant women to abstain completely from alcohol during pregnancy.
Women who drink low to moderate amounts during pregnancy are more likely to have a premature baby or a baby with a low birth weight.
Ideally if you are planning to have a baby, try to give up alcohol before you become pregnant. Otherwise, as soon as you know you are pregnant, give up alcohol immediately. The highest risk to the growing foetus is in the first trimester (the first three months of the pregnancy).
Can foetal alcohol syndrome be prevented?
Yes. Foetal alcohol syndrome is 100% preventable if you avoid alcohol during your pregnancy.
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