Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Creates Lifelong Difficulties for Children

Though it’s now common knowledge that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can lead to alcohol birth defects, many women still drink while pregnant. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 17 percent of women age 35-44 years reported using alcohol while carrying their babies. Some unwittingly engaged in binge drinking during the critical first four weeks of pregnancy, because they were not yet aware they were carrying a child.

Alcohol is considered even more dangerous than other addictive drugs to the development of an unborn baby. It can cause serious and long-term physical and mental birth defects, all of which are grouped together under the term “fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs).” The most serious of these is known as “fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS),” which is the most common cause of mental retardation.

What is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?

The term “fetal alcohol syndrome” was first used in 1973 to describe a pattern of abnormalities seen in children born to alcoholic mothers. Today, a child with FAS will typically have the following health issues:

  • prenatal and/or postnatal growth retardation;
  • central nervous system issues, such as neurological abnormalities, developmental delays, behavioral dysfunctions, intellectual impairment, and skull or brain malformations;
  • abnormal facial features, including small eyes, thin upper lip, and an elongated, flattened groove in the middle of the upper lip.

Children with FAS may have additional problems, such as poor coordination, lack of social skills, lack of imagination, poor memory, hyperactivity, and anxiety.

Fetal alcohol effects (FAE)” is a related term used to describe children who have some, but not all of the features of FAS. A child’s face may appear normal, for example, but he or she may have behavioral problems or learning disabilities. Children with FAE are often undiagnosed.

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for FAS or FAE. Children born with these conditions will struggle with the consequences for the rest of their lives. Even those who are not mentally retarded are at a higher risk of growing up to experience psychological and behavioral problems, and even criminal behavior. Many often have a hard time holding down a job, or living on their own.

Other Types of FASDs

As the severity of developmental problems caused by alcohol differs from child to child, additional categories have been developed to help describe the varying effects. Alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD) refer to those congenital defects that occur in babies born to mothers who drank, and can include heart, bone, kidney, vision, or hearing defects.

Alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARDN) refers to those children exhibiting only central nervous system abnormalities (like hearing loss or poor eye-hand coordination), or who have patterns of behavioral or cognitive deficits. These issues may not be associated as FASDs until several years after birth.

So far, research has been unable to establish a “minimum threshold” for fetal alcohol syndrome. In other words, even small amounts like one drink a week can cause alcohol birth defects. Healthcare professionals urge women to abstain completely while pregnant, or while trying to get pregnant.

Alcohol Birth Defects Can be Part of a Lawsuit

Harming a child—even an unborn one—through the use of alcohol can be considered a criminal act. Parties surrounding a child born with fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effects may become involved in a related lawsuit. An experienced lawyer can help determine what options may exist. Contact Chaffin Luhana LLP today for a confidential case evaluation at 1-888-480-1123.