PLEASE NOTE: Dr Penman is not a specialist in addictions, and this blog post is for information only and not to be used as a diagnostic tool. If you are concerned about your drinking and the effect it may have on you and your baby, please contact your GP who will be able to refer you to the right specialist.
What Is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) appears in children whose mother drank whilst she was pregnant. It is the most severe form of the fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of FAS?
The physical symptoms of FAS can include: small head size, low body weight, short physical stature, as well as visual or auditory impairment. A smooth philtrum (middle area of upper lip) and small eye openings are also tell-tale signs of FAS. Whilst there are a number of alcohol-related birth defects, such as a heart murmur and joint anomalies, these are not included in the diagnostic criteria for FAS.
Low intelligence, learning and behavioural difficulties have been linked to FAS.
How Is FAS Diagnosed?
FAS diagnosis can be complicated in that many of the associated signs and symptoms may not show up for many years. A combination of physical and mental symptoms are taken into account when making a diagnosis.
It is important to be honest with your doctor if you drank during pregnancy, to help inform a diagnosis.
What Is The Treatment For FAS?
Unfortunately, there is no treatment for FAS, but there is help available for the management of symptoms.
For example, special education and/or speech therapists may be helpful in managing your child’s symptoms and helping them to achieve their full potential at school and at home.
Is There Any Help Available For Me?
If you believe you have a problem with alcohol, it is important to be open and honest with your doctor. They can advise you on the best course of action for you. There are also a number of UK-based charities on hand to give support and guidance, including Addaction.
There is also practical support and guidance for raising a child with FAS from a number of charities, including the UK branch of the National Organisation For Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS).
How Can I Avoid FAS?
FAS is preventable, unlike all other fetal abnormalities.
Not drinking alcohol is the only way to avoid FAS. For example, swap out your cocktail for a non-alcoholic cocktail instead. If you believe you have an addition to alcohol, contact your doctor to discuss options for treatment – these are available even when you are not pregnant.