Baby Your Baby: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

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Baby Your Baby - Risk of Alcohol Use During Pregnancy

September 9th (9/9) is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Awareness Day to remind women to avoid alcohol during the nine months of pregnancy.

Al Romeo, RN, PhD; with the Utah Department of Health’s MotherToBaby/Pregnancy Risk Line program, talked about the risk of alcohol to babies.

Most people know that alcohol should be avoided in pregnancy. But some women may not be getting the message or may be getting mixed messages. From Utah’s 2015 survey, about 3% of surveyed women reported drinking alcohol in the last 3 months of pregnancy. That is about 1,300 babies being exposed to alcohol each year.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) are caused by alcohol use during pregnancy and are 100% preventable and there is no known safe level of alcohol use. The two most dangerous types of drinking are daily alcohol use and binge drinking. Estimates are that FASD affects up to 5 in 100 newborns.

Alcohol doesn’t cause birth defects every time, but it can cause different problems at different times in the pregnancy. Early in the pregnancy, problems include miscarriage, birth defects, facial features such as a smooth philtrum (space between upper lip and nose) and thin upper lip, heart defects, and skeletal defects (growth deficiencies). Later in the second and third trimesters problems include developmental delays and problems with executive functioning, attention deficits, learning disabilities, poor judgment (difficulty understanding right and wrong, and difficulty with complex and abstract thinking.

FASD is difficult to diagnose, especially when mother’s alcohol use in pregnancy is unknown. It may not be discovered until the child has difficulty in school. There is no cure and life-long treatment, interventions, and supports are needed to address related symptoms such as inappropriate behaviors. Some children and adults will have run-ins with the criminal justice system due to those developmental problems and behaviors.

If moms or providers have concerns or questions about alcohol, medications, or other exposures, they can contact us through MotherToBaby.utah.gov.

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