Sunday, November 22, 2009

Prevent Fetal Alcohol Syndrom (FAS)

Prevent Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

Women who drink alcohol during pregnancy put their infants at risk for biological damage. Binge drinking among college students and early alcohol consumption among teens has increased dramatically. Alcohol consumption during pregnancy increases the risks of a newborn infant suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). FAS often shows itself in head and facial deformities that tend to create elf-like facial features, slow growth, abnormal joints (feet, fingers, toes), heart defects, tremors and agitation in newborns, hyperactivity, learning disabilities, abnormal brain development and possible mild to moderate mental retardation.

Rough estimates of the occurrence of FAS are 1 to 2 of every 1000 babies. This figure increases to around 29 of 1000 women who heavily consume alcohol early in their pregnancies.

In general, alcohol consumption among our female population has also increased in recent decades. Guidelines for the safe consumption of alcohol during pregnancy are not clear and this has led many health professionals to recommend zero alcohol use during pregnancy.

This leaves society with three major problems: The first is that many pregnant women do not get this message. Secondly, many of the women who do understand that alcohol is dangerous to their in-utero developing babies simply behave irresponsibly: some knowingly take the risks of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. In many other cases pregnant women are addicted to alcohol and believe they cannot control their alcohol intake. Finally, and most diabolically, women may drink alcohol during that early time interval when they have not yet discovered that they are pregnant.

Physical and neurological damage caused by woman who consume alcohol or other drugs during pregnancy cannot be cured. These infants are damaged for the rest of their lives. The effects of these impairments will reverberate for at least three generations: the mother’s life, the child’s life, and the lives of the many others with whom the damaged and growing person will interact. The costs in lost human potential and financial resources of substance abuse to the unborn and society are huge and difficult to establish.

What, in general, are the costs of an impaired child through life? There are the costs of special education, unemployment, medical care and welfare. Insurance costs must increase as well as our taxes. What about the costs of crime, law enforcement, prosecution, and prison?

We seldom think about the costs to us all of the forms of behavioral contagion that I have outlined above. If we fail to control these costs to society through prevention, this human source drain upon our health and viabilitycan destroy America’s health and viability.

We must prevent FAS and other factors that destroy our children.

I am reminded of a nursery rhyme from my childhood:

“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the Kings men and all the Kings horses couldn’t put poor Humpty Dumpty together again.”

The prevention of our human problems is the best and most cost-effective way.

God Bless,

Dr. Tom

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