Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Four myths about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder endanger babies

Sept. 9, the ninth day of the ninth month, is the annual observance of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) to emphasize the critical nine months of pregnancy. FASDs are now more common than autism, and one child is born with one in the range of FASDs every 4.5 minutes. The most common is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. (For characteristics of FASD, see related article)
The unborn use the same blood and therefore have the same blood alcohol concentration (BAC) as the mother. The fetus lacks the ability to process the alcohol the way an adult does, so the BAC remains high for a long time, causing a number of physical, cognitive, social and neurological problems in the infant that are permanent and irreversible. And sometimes fatal.
Myth 1: I’m not alcoholic, so my baby is safe.
The developing baby doesn’t know the difference: Alcohol is alcohol. Developmental and physical problems can be caused by any amount of alcohol, any time during the pregnancy. There’s particular interest in early-pregnancy drinking, as well as the relationship between greater amounts of alcohol increasing the probability of a fetal disorder. However, an expectant mother doesn’t need to have the disease of alcoholism to cause trouble for the fetus.
Any amount of alcohol – even so called social drinking – risks infant development because alcohol is a toxin. The byproduct of alcohol metabolism, specifically acetaldehyde, is 30 times more toxic and any quantity can be responsible for physical deformities.
Myth 2: It’s the mom’s fault.
It’s the alcohol’s fault. Research published in Animal Cells and Systems suggests the father's drinking also may contribute to FAS.
The Korean study exposed male rodents to varying concentrations of alcohol prior to mating. Some of the fetuses they helped conceive suffered abnormal organ development and/or brain development. The offspring of the “sober” male mice in the study showed no abnormalities. The study authors concluded that alcohol consumption, not necessarily heavy use or the disease of alcoholism, affects genes in sperm which are responsible for normal fetal development.
The study subjects were exposed to alcohol for only seven weeks (see related article).
Myth 3: I quit drinking before I got pregnant, so no worries, right?
Naturally, there is heightened interest in alcohol consumption after conception. A study of 1,107 first-time mothers released in April 15 by Australia's University of New South Wales found an increased risk of low birth weight even if the mother was treated for an alcohol use disorder 12 months before conception. This is the first study connecting problems with newborns with drinking alcohol prior to conception.
Low birth weight is one of four FASD diagnostic criteria used by medical professionals:
• Abnormal facial features (smooth ridge between nose and upper lip)
• Lower-than-average height, weight, or both
• Central nervous system problems (small head size, problems later in life with attention and hyperactivity, poor coordination)
• Prenatal alcohol exposure; although confirmation is not required to make a diagnosis
Alcohol causes lasting changes in a mother’s DNA, which explains the problems in the babies of chronic drinkers even long after the drinking ceased.
Myth 4: I can drink again once the baby arrives.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA … which started FASD Awareness Day on 9/9/99) notes that protecting babies from alcohol goes beyond pregnancy. "When a woman uses alcohol, her baby does, too. That’s why abstaining from drinking throughout pregnancy and during breastfeeding is the best gift a mother can give her child—it’s a gift that lasts a lifetime."
(see full article)
Visit for a replay of the Bringing Inspiration To Earth show feature with Scott Stevens. Lucy Pireel's "All That's Written" included a feature on Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud called "When alcohol doesn't work for you anymore."  Details on the third literary award for Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud also can be found on, plus an interview with Scott Stevens on Health Media Now and one at Christoph Fisher Books.  Mr. Fisher is an acclaimed international author from the UK, among his works is the Alzheimer's book "Time to Let Go."