Foetal Alcohol Syndrome

Foetal Alcohol Syndrome is the number one culprit in the Western world for developmental abnormalities, both physical and mental, in children. It is caused by pre-natal exposure to alcohol, i.e. a pregnant mother drinking alcohol at any stage of her pregnancy.


Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), or Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) can be categorised and recognised by a series of signs and symptoms that present in children affected by the pre-natal exposure. For this reason, FAS is not a disease in its self, but is in fact a ‘spectrum’ of individual disorders that present to varying degrees and levels of severity.


The only way that FAS / FASD can be avoided entirely is to completly abstain from alcohol during your entire pregnancy, whether or not ‘studies’ say that some alcohol will do no harm. That is not a risk anybody should consider.


FAS affects the unborn child by crossing the placental barrier in the womb and interfering with the natural developmental procedure of the child. Alcohol binds to nutrient and oxygen molecules that the child needs to grow effectively, and can specifically alter the child’s health if exposed during particular stages of the pregnancy. This can range from minor irregularities such as lack of hand-eye coordination, to severe disorders such as epilepsy and learning difficulties.

Symptoms of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome.

  • Significant and characteristic abnormalities of cranial growth. The FAS child will display very recognisable disfigurements of the facial and cranial structure. These disfigurements are so characteristic as to be used to clinically diagnose FAS without further testing necessary. Factors such as gestational age and post natal ‘insults’ (poor nutrition etc) are taken into account.
  • Significant abnormalities of the bodies structural growth. The child will be below average height, weight or both. Again, other factors that can affect the child’s development will be taken into account – but the presenting retardation of growth will be a standard indicator of FAS.
  • Brain functionality damage, on par with the level of facial distortion. What this means is that the level of irregularity presented in the facial features will be a good indicator of the level of brain damage. This is because the delicate stages of facial growth and brain functionality coincide and if alcohol is present then it will interrupt both.
  • Damage to the Central Nervous System. According to the duration of, and timing of the pre-natal exposure to alcohol, the child’s CNS can be damaged structurally, functionally and neurologically.
  • Brain structural damage on par with the distortion of the shape of the cranium. Pre-natal exposure (particularly in the first trimester) to alcohol can result in Microcephaly. This is an indicator of internal damage resulting in poor memory, learning difficulties and emotional retardation.
  • Neurological impairment of the brain, which will present as either ‘hard’ signs such as epilepsy or ‘soft’ signs like poor hand-eye coordination or motor skills.


In short, pre-natal exposure to alcohol can result in your child experiencing learning difficulties,poor impulse control, poor personal boundaries, poor anger management, poor ‘stranger’ awareness, poor day to day living skills, ADHD, poor attention span, easily distractable, mental retardation, poor pressure management, lack of ability to distinguish between reality and fantasy, poor cognitive processing, poor judgement, poor pattern perception and cause/effect processing, a lack of ability to link words to actions, talking problems and language development retardation, a lack of understanding of others use of language (sarcasm, jokes, metephor), poor or inconsistent memory, cannot grasp concepts, poor motor skill development (ie riding a bike at a later rather than early age), an inability to read verbal and non-verbal cues…….


The full list is much, much longer.

With all of these abnormalities and brain disorders, other signs may present at some time. These following disorders can be the result of many varying causes however, and for that reason they are not classed as specific criteria for the diagnosis of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. They include, but are not limited to:


  • Cardiac disorders – the ventricles and atria of the heart do not develop properly, leading to irregularities in heart beat (heart murmur) during early life.
  • Skeletal malfunction – Joint anomalies such as improper position or function.
  • Kidney distortion – horseshoe shaped and underdeveloped kidneys
  • Eye abnormalities – light hyper/under sensitivity, involuntary eye movements.


Again, this is not an exhaustive list.


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