New Parent News
The Booze You Drink Goes Straight to Your Baby's Brain
By Julie Tresco for the Times Herald Record April 18, 2007
It is estimated that more than half the women of childbearing age drink alcohol. Many women drink early on in their pregnancy but stop once they find out that they are pregnant.
What they may not know is this: There is no safe amount or safe time to drink during a pregnancy.
When a pregnant woman drinks, the alcohol crosses the placenta and enters the unborn baby's bloodstream. The alcohol reaches the developing tissues and organs, causing damage. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a broad term used to describe a baby born with problems due to prenatal exposure to alcohol.
Babies with FASD are more irritable, have trouble eating and sleeping, are overly sensitive to lights and sounds, and have a strong startle reflex. Some babies have abnormalities of the ears, eyes, liver, heart or joints. Most have developmental delays.
But the most serious issue is the invisible neurological damage that has been done. Essentially, a baby born with FASD has permanent brain damage. The effects last a lifetime.
Consider the following facts:
- Prenatal exposure to alcohol is the leading cause of mental retardation.
- Alcohol is more toxic to an unborn baby than any other substance including cocaine, crack and heroin.
- FASD occurs in about 1 out of 100 live births, outranking Down syndrome and autism.
- Among of the highest incidences of babies born with FASD occurs in populations of white, non-Hispanic, educated women who live in households where the annual income is greater than $50,000.
The damage caused by FASD reaches far beyond pregnancy and infancy.
Children with FASD grow up to become adults with FASD.
Many have trouble living on their own, staying in school, holding a job or having a healthy relationship. Without support, these adults are at high risk for mental-health problems, trouble with the law, alcohol and drug abuse, inappropriate sexual behavior and unwanted pregnancies. The cost to taxpayers is close to $6 billion per year.
However, children born with FASD can flourish in the right environment. FASD is considered a disability and a baby with the condition should receive the same services and interventions as any other baby born with a disability. For more information on diagnosis and treatment of FASD, visit the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services at www.oasas.state.ny.us.
The good news is that FASD is 100 percent preventable. It's as simple as this:
If you think you might be pregnant, don't drink! If you are pregnant, stop drinking!