Fetal Alcohol Syndrome - Symptoms, causes and treatment

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a series of health problems that occur in infants due to mothers consuming alcoholic beverages during pregnancy. Problems that occur can include physical, mental disorders, or a combination of the two.

It is important to remember, there is no safe level of alcohol for consumption by pregnant women. FAS can occur in the fetus even if the amount of alcohol consumed is only small. In other words, fetal alcohol syndrome can have a severe impact on the quality of life of patients and their families in the long term.

Causes of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol syndrome can occur if a woman consumes alcohol during pregnancy. When a pregnant woman consumes alcoholic beverages, the alcohol in the mother's blood will flow to the placenta and enter the fetus' bloodstream.

Although the alcohol consumed does not make the mother drunk, the fetus cannot process alcohol like an adult. Even low levels of alcohol can damage the brain, spinal cord, and other organs of the developing fetus. In addition, alcohol can also interfere with the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the fetus.

Risk factors for fetal alcohol syndrome

Fetus or baby is at risk fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) if the mother has a habit of consuming alcoholic beverages and is sexually active or is planning to have children.

The risk of FAS is the same in every trimester of pregnancy. FAS can occur if a pregnant woman consumes alcoholic beverages in whatever trimester she is pregnant, even in the first week of pregnancy when she is not aware that she is pregnant.

Symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) causes a variety of symptoms. These symptoms are related to physical abnormalities, intellectual and cognitive abilities, and social behavior. The following are symptoms that can arise:

Physical symptoms

Physical symptoms of FAS can be seen or detected when the child is born or several months after giving birth. Physical symptoms that can appear in people with FAS include:

  • Abnormal face shape, such as small eyes, a very thin upper lip, a snub and upturned nose, and no indentation above the lips
  • Small head circumference
  • Hearing disorders
  • Visual disturbances, such as crossed eyes
  • Deformities of joints, arms, legs, or fingers
  • Disorders of the heart, kidneys, or bones
  • Slow weight and length gain

Intellectual and cognitive symptoms

Symptoms related to cognitive and intellectual abilities are caused by disorders of the brain. These symptoms can have an impact until the child reaches adulthood. Complaints that can arise include:

  • Learning disorders, such as difficulty thinking, speaking, and counting
  • Easy to change mood or mood
  • Difficulty focusing and understanding the meaning of an information
  • Hyperactive
  • Poor memory
  • Impaired ability to move and maintain balance
  • Difficulty in reasoning and problem solving
  • Difficulty in understanding the consequences of a decision

Symptoms of social behavior

Symptoms of social behavior that can appear in people with FAS include:

  • Poor social skills
  • Difficulty getting along with other people
  • Bad time management
  • Difficulty in controlling a behavior
  • Difficulty focusing on work
  • Difficulty planning and working to achieve goals
  • Difficulty when you have to change from one job to another

Consumption of alcoholic beverages in certain trimesters can cause more severe symptoms in some aspects of intelligence and physical. This is because the fetus goes through certain stages of development in each trimester of pregnancy.

The following is an example of the impact of alcohol consumption in each trimester of pregnancy:

  • First trimester: causes abnormal facial growth and slows the development of the fetus in the womb
  • The second trimester: causes the child to have a low IQ, have impaired cognitive abilities such as reading and counting, and have an abnormal length and weight at birth
  • Third trimester: causes abnormalities in height from birth to adulthood

When to go to the doctor

If you are pregnant but can't stop drinking alcohol, talk to your gynecologist about your condition. The doctor will conduct an examination to detect if there are health problems in the fetus.

Check with the doctor if your baby or child shows signs and symptoms as mentioned above, especially if you consume alcoholic beverages during pregnancy.

Early examination is needed to speed up diagnosis and treatment before the child's condition worsens.

Diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

There is no examination procedure that can be used to diagnose fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). In addition, the symptoms of FAS are non-specific and often resemble those of other conditions, such as memory loss and hyperactivity, which also occur in people with ADHD.

Therefore, if a baby or child has symptoms of FAS, the doctor will ask the mother a history of alcohol consumption and examine the signs that appear in the child after birth.

Some of the signs to check are:

  • Face shape and bones
  • Head size
  • Growth chart
  • Sight and hearing
  • Children's ability to move
  • Children's speaking ability

In an unborn fetus, the doctor may perform an ultrasound examination to detect signs of FAS, such as heart defects or growth retardation (IUGR; intrauterine growth restriction), if the mother is known to have consumed alcoholic beverages during pregnancy.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Treatment

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) cannot be treated. However, treatment can be done to relieve symptoms, reduce the effects that arise, and prevent symptoms from getting worse or accompanied by additional symptoms.

Some of the treatments that can be done according to the symptoms that arise are:

Medicines and medical procedures

There are no drugs that can treat FAS. However, some of the drugs below can relieve the symptoms that arise:

  • Amphetamines, to relieve hyperactivity or lack of focus
  • Antipsychotics, to relieve anxiety or feelings of anger
  • anti drug anxiety, to relieve anxiety disorders
  • Antidepressants, to relieve depression

The above drugs are used especially in patients who experience complications in the form of emotional disorders or mood disorders. These complications are more likely to occur in adult patients and are predominant in intellectual and social behavior disorders.

Medical procedures such as surgery can be performed on patients who have congenital heart disease or crossed eyes. However, this action may not be implemented immediately and will need to be implemented gradually.

Therapy and counseling

There are various kinds of therapy that can be done for children with FAS, depending on their needs. Speech therapy can be done for children who have difficulty speaking. In addition, physical therapy and occupational therapy can be performed for children with physical disorders that interfere with their daily activities.

Counseling with a psychologist can also help children whose behavior is difficult to control, difficult to socialize, impulsive, and hyperactive. This is important so that children can develop optimally. Children may also need to attend schools with special needs in order to develop their abilities.

Self care

Children who have behavior disorders need to be addressed properly by parents. Things that can be done include:

  • Understand your child's strengths and limitations
  • Have a regular daily schedule
  • Make simple rules and stick to them
  • Use short and clear sentences in conveying meaning
  • Give praise or gifts to appreciate good behavior
  • Set a good example of how to go about daily activities and socialize with others
  • Keep the child safe from the environment or people who can make his condition worse

Caring for and guiding children with limitations, such as those with fetal alcohol syndrome, can be very tiring and confusing. Therefore, parents and families of sufferers are advised to join counseling or group therapy to share problems and get support.

Complications of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) can cause several complications, namely:

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or sleep disorders
  • Inability to stay or finish school
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Inappropriate sexual behavior
  • Inappropriate and unlawful social behavior

Prevention of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Consuming alcoholic beverages during pregnancy is a major cause of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) or fetal alcohol syndrome in infants. Therefore, the best way to prevent this condition from occurring is to do the following:

  • Do not consume alcoholic beverages during pregnancy
  • Take care if you have an alcohol addiction, especially if you want to have children
  • Do not consume alcoholic beverages if you are undergoing a program to become pregnant or have children
  • Stop drinking alcohol if you are sexually active, especially when you are fertile