Alcohol and the Future Generations : Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

Karim Nahim*

Brisbane, 29 April, 2015 (Alochonaa): Alcoholism is labelled “a biopsychosocial disease” . Approximately 90% of Australians have tried alcohol by the age 14 and consumed a standard drink (10 g alcohol) by the age of 16. Most of our attention has been on the problems of alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence in adult; however, consequence of alcohol on fetus/unborn and/or new born baby has been neglected. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is emerging as a public health issue in Australia. It is an umbrella term used to cover the range of possible birth defects such as fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), partial fetal alcohol syndrome (pFAS), alcohol-related neuro-developmental disorders (ARND) and alcohol-related birth defect (ARBD). The prevalence of FASD might be as high as 1 to 5% in young school children in the USA, which is apparently higher than the prevalence rate in Australia. A study with FASD in Indigenous Australian revealed that 540 out of 614 children aged fewer than 12 having signs of primary and secondary disabilities associated with FAS and FASD. The prevalence of FASD is 2 to 3 times as high as that of non-Indigenous children. However the available data related to FASD is incomplete and may not produce a realistic picture because of the general lack of recognition of FASD by clinicians and by incorrect and/or delayed diagnosis. It is essentially important to develop the diagnostic tools that could be used early in the life and to find out better treatment strategies so that the social and psychological damage can be averted or at least mitigated.

Symptoms of FASD

Chronic and/or heavy alcohol intake during pregnancy causes a wide range of damage to an unborn child and results most often in the following abnormalities in the newborn: low birth weight, small head circumference developmental delay, various types of organ dysfunction, facial abnormalities, including smaller eye openings, flattened cheekbones and others. Later in life this may extend to attacks of epileptic convulsions, poor coordination/fine motor skills, poor socialization skills, difficulty building and maintaining friendships, learning difficulty, poor memory, poor problem solving skills and serious-behavior problem including hyperactivity. Depending on the amount of alcohol consumption and the frequency of drinking during early stages of pregnancy, still birth, abortion, or preeclampsia may occur. These may be, however, results of advance stages of alcoholism associated with previous continuing heavy drinking of alcohol.


Diagnosis of unborn baby in the maternal womb

The above symptoms have been shown at severe stage of FASD but early diagnosis can increase a positive outcome in the unborn child of pregnant woman. A physical exam of the baby may show a heart murmur or other heart problems. As the baby matures, there may be other signs that help confirm the diagnosis, these include:, slow rate of growth, abnormal facial features or bone growth, hearing and vision problems, slow language acquisition, small head size, poor coordination. To diagnose an individual with FAS, the doctor must determine that he or she has abnormal facial features, slower than normal growth, and central nervous system problems. These nervous system problems could be physical or behavioral. They might present as hyperactivity, lack of coordination or focus or learning disabilities.


Treatments and/or Preventions

The medication such as antidepressants, stimulants, neuroleptics and anti-anxiety drugs help to overcome from the 2andary symptoms. It used to be thought that baby isn’t affected by its father’s drinking but alcohol consumed by the male can lead to a variety of problems in the male reproductive system particularly in the quality of sperm. Birth defects characteristic of FASD have almost universally been thought of as associated with the mother drinking during pregnancy. When children of fathers who are drinkers and non-alcoholic mothers are compared with those diagnostic with FAS, the children of the drinking fathers are not grossly malformed, but they do have certain intellectual and functional deficits, and they are also more likely to be hyperactive. Recent research has been shown that exposing a male animal to alcohol can lead to changes in embryonic and fetal development, litter size, offspring viability, and increased susceptibility of the offspring to infection.


Is it possible to eradicate FASD from the society of developed country?

To date no known safe amount of alcohol or safe time to drink alcohol seems to have been identified for male or female who intend to have child. It has been virtually assumed that fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) would be prevented if mother abstains from alcohol during pregnancy, however father’s contribution should also be considered. It may not be possible to eradicate the effects of alcohol on fetus in the population of a developed country where drinking alcohol is a commonly accepted social activity. The fact is that nobody really knows how alcohol drinking – whether of the light social variety or binge-type – affects unborn babies. Some studies reported no consistent evidence of adverse effects of moderate or social drinking on unborn baby but the adverse impact may be more serious in the case of heavy or “binge” drinking.



* Karim Nahim is a B. Medical Science graduate. He has interests in supporting the issues of rural medicine and supporting the people with their everyday needs in healthcare. He is currently studying Doctor of Medicine and has interests in specializing in ophthalmology. Although from a scientific background, he also has interests in interfaith and cultural matters.

** is not responsible for any factual mistakes (if any) of this analysis. This analysis further is not necessarily representative of’s view. We’re happy to facilitate further evidence-based submissions on this topic. Please send us your submission at

Categories: Health

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