Today, fill your cup of life with sunshine and laughter.

16 January 2007


"Alcohol or drug consumption during pregnancy -- any amount -- could be a sentence of lifetime disability for an unborn child."

What is FAS?
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a medically diagnosable condition describing a set of birth defects seen in children whose mothers consumed alcohol or drugs during pregnancy. Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE): is a term used to describe the presence of some, but not all, FAS characteristics when prenatal exposure to alcohol or drugs has been confirmed (also used occasionally when use is uncertain). Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAS/FAE) is one of the major known preventable birth defects among Canadian children.
Prenatal exposure to alcohol or drugs is one of the leading causes of preventable birth defects and developmental delay in children in Canada and one of the top three known causes of mental retardation, along with Spina Bifida and Downs Syndrome. It is a life-long condition. A child with FAS becomes an adult with FAS. There is no cure for this syndrome; the damage is irreversible. The fetus is most vulnerable to various types of injuries depending on the stage of development in which the substance is encountered. A safe amount of consumption during pregnancy has not been determined, and all major authorities agree that women should not consume alcohol or drugs at all during pregnancy. Unfortunately, women sometimes wait until a pregnancy is confirmed before they stop. By then, the embryo/fetus has gone through several weeks of critical development, a period during which exposure can be very damaging. Therefore, the Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse urges women who are pregnant or anticipating a pregnancy to abstain.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a pattern of mental and physical defects that develops in some unborn babies when the mother consumes alcohol or drugs during pregnancy. A baby born with FAS may be seriously handicapped and require a lifetime of special care. Some babies with substance abuse-related birth defects, including smaller body size, lower birth weight, and other impairments, do not have all of the classic FAS symptoms. These symptoms are sometimes referred to as Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE). Researchers do not all agree on the precise distinctions between FAS and FAE cases. Alcohol or drugs in a pregnant woman's bloodstream circulates to the fetus by crossing the placenta. There, the substance interferes with the ability of the fetus to receive sufficient oxygen and nourishment for normal cell development in the brain and other body organs.

How Much is too Much?

In a recent survey done for Health Canada to measure the knowledge of the effects of alcohol and drug use during pregnancy, 60 per cent of the survey respondents (male and female) said cutting down on or stopping using would be one of the most important things that pregnant women might do to increase the likelihood that their baby will be born healthy. Many women also said they would be most receptive to support and encouragement from their spouses to stop or cut back. As researchers have not been able to determine a safe level of consumption during pregnancy, there's only one safe course if you are pregnant or wish to become pregnant: don't consume alcohol or drugs.

Even moderate consumption during pregnancy can have serious, long-term adverse effects on the fetus and child. Some studies have shown that children born to mothers who drink or use drugs only occasionally are at increased risk for learning disabilities and other cognitive and behavioral problems. What do alcohol and drugs do to the fetus? When a pregnant woman consumes alcohol or drugs, it rapidly crosses the barrier of the placenta into the fetus. The brain and central nervous system of the unborn child can be damaged by prenatal exposure, at any time during pregnancy.

Bruce Ritchie 1997

Don't ask my child to fly,
for he has not wings.

Don't ask my child to see the glint on the eagle's beak,
for his vision has been diminished.

Don't ask my child to remain calm amid the din,
for her ability to screen out the noises has been taken away.

Don't ask my child to be careful with "strangers",
for he is affectionate with everyone and prey for the unscrupulous.

Don't ask my child to "settle down",
for the clock which works for you and I, does not exist for her.

Don't ask my child to not play with the toys of others,
for he has no concept of property.

Don't ask my child to remember you tomorrow,
although you met today.

Don't ask my child to heal your wounds,
for her hands cannot hold a scalpel or sutures.

Don't ask my child to meet the challenges set by society,
for you have denied her the tools.

Don't ask my child to forgive you for standing idly by,
while he was being tortured in his mother's womb,

for he will,
but He may not.


julie said...

A most eye opening page of information Coco. Thank you. I'll pass this on.

Twyla said...

Very informative. I honestly don't understand women that drink while pregnant. It makes me so mad.

Bond said...

A terrible thing to do to an unborn child.

You responded to travis...but his message does not appear.

Meribah said...

This is a very informative post which I think everyone should read. You're right, Coco. FAS/FAE is definitely not something people should be joking about.
I'm sorry you were offended in FBB. At first, I didn't understand why you reacted the way you did. I had seen someone come in with the name "Crackbaby" but the full significance of it hadn't dawned on me. I was too busy jumping back and forth between watching TV and keeping up with the chat conversation. I'm sure most of the people there were similarly occupied and didn't realize how truly offensive the name was. I hope you can forgive us and that this "incident" does not sour the wonderful relationships that we've formed. Whatever happens, hugs to you!

damm said...

Great stuff Coco!!

It is a truly staggering number of newborns that are affected by this.

Better to inform than condemn?

Maryfly said...

sad that this has to even be said. It should be a given - you wouldn't hand a baby drugs or alcohol so why do it when they're in the womb? It's the same thing. Hugs hon.

Amanda said...

*hugs coco* If people would only *listen*

busy91 said...

Wow this was an interesting read, thanks for posting it. I never understood how people could do drugs/alcohol while pg.

I was looking at the picture of the child with the Facial Features and I never realized my daughter has many of those features, except she does not have FAS, I just thought it was very interesting. I just wonder why those particular features manifest in FAS. Why epicanthal folds and a flat midface? Why an upturned nose and small eye openings? I do understand about the smooth philtrum and the effect it has on the upper lip, but the others elude me. Do you know?

Travis said...

Thanks for sharing this information.

And I like the look of the blog.

Renee said...

I have a friend with two adopted fas kids and many of the symptoms confirm what we suspect about my adopted neice...I've tried to check her photos but I need to dig out the baby pix to be sure.
It so sad.
My dd is learning how drugs kill brain cells...but a fetus' brain is more precious.

Bond said...

OOOO A new look for Coco... like it very much

Angell said...

Thank you Ms. Coco for an informative lesson - a lot of people are totally uneducated when it comes to this, and I'm one of them.

So thank you for being the wonderful teacher you are.

Knowledge is power. You are our energy bars :D (Did that make sense)

FAScinated said...

I am the adoptive parent of two children with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders). One has the facial features of FAS and one does not.

The face forms during a very short time of the pregnancy and if there is no drinking during that time the child might have the same amount of brain and central nervous system damage, but a very invisible disability. Visit my blog if you would like to read about my family's journey with FASD-