Alcohol is one of the most dangerous poisons that a mother can drink during her pregnancy. Among all known toxins and harmful substances that can adversely affect not only a mother but also the body of the fetus, alcohol can have the most devastating impact. The use of alcohol during pregnancy is fraught with violation of physical, mental and intellectual development of a baby. In mothers who consume alcohol during pregnancy often enough are born children with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) diseases which are related to the structure of birth defects. However, several points of view on the use of alcohol by a pregnant woman were developed depending on the historical and cultural context of the country. Among them, one can distinguish positive attitude to certain alcoholic beverages and their direct benefit to the body of the pregnant; negative attitude towards alcohol consumption by women, both before and during pregnancy; uncertainty as to whether a woman should drink alcohol and in what doses. The obvious is the fact that to expose the fetus even minimal risk is an unreasonable choice essay title generator
The Teratogenic Effects of Alcohol
Even with good intentions, a pregnant woman cannot drink alone. An unborn child always gets alcohol as well as a mother. Alcohol is considered a teratogen, i.e. it can cause fetal malformations and damage embryos. The damaging effect on a fetus has alcohol itself (ethanol) and its breakdown products, such as acetaldehyde. Ethanol leads to a spasm of blood vessels of the umbilical cord and placenta, impairing delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the fetus. Acetaldehyde adversely affects the embryo cells and leads to a change in the genetic material (DNA), which is the cause of various malformations. Alcohol disrupts exchange vitamins, hormones in tissues and organs of a fetus. The central nervous system is particularly susceptible to it. Alcohol effect on it is the cause of mental disorders in children. Children of drinking mothers are usually born with a smaller weight than children of parents who abstained alcohol. Moreover, in future, they probably have behavior problems and inability to relate to other children as well as a tendency to be impulsive.
FAS and FASD
The use of alcohol by women during pregnancy significantly increases the risk of miscarriage, birth weight infants, and in the most severe cases, contributes to the development of fetal alcohol syndrome. Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a condition that is caused by the action of alcohol components on a fetus in the critical period of development. It is known that if an expectant mother consumes alcoholic beverages in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy, the likelihood that a child will be born dead or there will be a miscarriage is increased by 70%. Moreover, this syndrome is associated with prenatal alcohol damage and is characterized by specific abnormalities of face, retarded physical and mental development, behavioral abnormalities, affecting the heart, the urinary system, and other organs. Unfortunately, the intrauterine fetal lesions effects are irreversible and virtually untreatable.
Most often, FAS is fixed, if women use 4-5 doses of alcohol daily. The damage is less visible but still applied with fewer abnormal effects. More specifically, signs of the fetal syndrome include insufficient weight at birth, violation of the physical development of the fetus, underdevelopment of the lips, cheeks or jaw, disorders of brain development and the nervous system, violation of the internal organs and other symptoms. However, it should be said that in some children born from women who drink during pregnancy, there is no full range of symptoms of congenital fetal alcohol syndrome, which are classified as violations of FAS.
Apart from this syndrome, there are a number of developmental disorders from the group of so-called FASD. In fact, FASD are the fetal alcohol spectrum disorders that occur without facial syndromes of FAS. Although FASD is not a medical diagnosis, it includes a range of physical, mental, and behavioral effects. FASD covers a wide range of symptoms that are associated with fetal alcohol exposure, including cognitive impairment, problems with attention and mental retardation, and abnormal functioning of the central nervous system. These symptoms can lead to problems with attention and a higher social and economic burden that are often common for patients with FASD.
Children with FASD show weaker brain activation during the execution of specific cognitive task than healthy children of the same age. In them, problems with the study, paying attention, working memory, planning of the tasks are noted. Moreover, children with FASD may be aggressive and/or deviant. They are hardly able to create social relationships and cannot judge social situations correctly. In adulthood, it is difficult for them to lead the independent life. In mature age, they may experience a variety of mental illnesses which often can cause the problems with the law.
The frequency of FAS is 1 case per 500 live births, meanwhile, 1 of 100 babies born in the United States are affected by FASD. Other sources state the number 1 of 300 babies. The devastating effects of alcohol on a baby in utero period have a detrimental effect on the brain activity of the brain during a long period of time. Abnormal development of the brain activity, which is observed in children with FASD, may explain the persistent problems with cognitive and behavioral functions, remaining in the people of this population as they mature.
Studies on Alcohol Consumption Effect on the Children
Ann Streissguth’s Study
In order to trace how prenatal exposure to alcohol may change this development, the group researchers head with Ann Streissguth were watching the two groups of children. In one group, there were seven years old children who were not affected by alcohol exposure in utero, and the other group consisted of children of mothers who have drunk during pregnancy. This long-lasting experiment traced the children with equal IQ. The mothers from the second group have reported that they had drunk from 7 to 14 standard alcohol drinks during pregnancy and those from the first group did not at all. It turned out that in childhood, children of the drinking mothers had problems with attention, study, and memory, meanwhile those born from parents which abstinent from alcohol had no such problems. In early adulthood, these children were more aggressive and more prone to drink hard alcohol being young adults. During the study, scientists were able to discover that over time between the two groups of children there were significant differences in the development of brain activity even if these differences were not seen when performing tasks.
Changes in Brain
A recent study has once again confirmed the data obtained in earlier studies that alcohol negatively affects the brain development of unborn child and for a long time affects brain activity of children. In order to monitor brain activity while performing mental tasks in children with FASD, functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was used, but first and foremost, the researchers used this method for a long period of time to observe the changes in brain activity in children. The purpose of the experiment was the desire to understand whether there are statistically significant differences in brain activity in children with FASD and their healthy peers, or when the children get older, whether the brain activity changes.
The Doze of Alcohol
In addition to other issues related to the use of alcohol during pregnancy, a reasonable question arises whether the severity of the harm caused to a child’s health depends on the amount of alcohol or not as well as whether the damage depends on the regularity of its use or on something else. Of course, the number and frequency of alcohol consumption are important in the nature of the consequences of alcohol effects on the fetus. According to studies, a daily intake by pregnant of 30 grams of alcoholic beverages is associated with a high risk of damages of a fetus. Thus, there is no common secure dose of alcohol. It is revealed that the fetal alcohol syndrome occurs in children whose mothers consumed daily only 3-5 grams of alcohol. The harmful alcohol effect to a fetus depends on the characteristics of a mother’s body for the processing of alcohol and reaction to alcohol, the state organs and systems of women at the time of pregnancy, diet, nature, related bad habits, such as smoking, the genotype of a fetus (it depends on the germ cells involved in the conception) gestational age, and many other things. However, if alcohol consumption became the system, there is a risk to get into one of the critical periods when fetal sensitivity to external factors which usually is particularly large, increases many times. It should also be remembered that for a mother, there is no difference between the hard and light alcohol. Previously, it was believed that a glass of beer or wine is acceptable during pregnancy. However, the opposite is correct: any alcoholic beverage has a detrimental effect on a baby.
Time of Alcohol Expose
Time of alcohol expose determines what problems a baby might have. This is also evidenced by the study. In the case study, there were invited all pregnant women in the area of Avon. The expected birth date was almost the same for all of them. Therefore, 14,541 women, who were from the local population, agreed to attend the sample. The Avon area presents a generally common socioeconomic state to the rest of England and covers both rural and urban areas. The women in the sample were middle age, the majority of them was married or cohabiting, more likely of white ethnicity, home owner-occupiers, and had a car in the household.
The most dangerous period for the use of alcohol is 7-12 weeks of pregnancy when the fetus brain development begins. Alcohol destroys nerve cells which simply cannot be restored, resulting in the fact that a child may in the future experience problems with memory, speech, hearing and other intellectual processes. They may also be affected in other systems and organs. However, at the same time, consumption of alcohol, not only during the first months of pregnancy but as well as at a later date, can lead to negative consequences for a child’s development. The same applies to drugs as well as smoking and certain medicinal drugs.
Not only during the first month but during the first trimester of pregnancy, alcohol can lead to global tragedies. The fact is that up until the 13th week of pregnancy, there is the first stage of the creation of internal organs, and further differentiation of the internal organs occurs. Therefore, if during the first trimester of pregnancy drinking alcohol occurred, the likelihood of having a child with a variety of abnormalities and defects in the development that may occur after some time, dramatically increases.
In addition to the teratogenic effects of alcohol, absolutely nothing is known about the action of alcohol on a fetus and the course of pregnancy, including the one-time admission, chronic reception, receiving small doses, large doses of different types of beverages, etc. One cannot compare pregnancy in women when alcohol is taken in small doses and occasionally with an alcoholic’s pregnancy. Women who suffer from alcoholism face many negative factors affecting the course of pregnancy (poor malnutrition and nutrition, living in unsanitary conditions, violence and different types of abuse as well as other bad habits, etc.). However, the obvious is the fact that it is unreasonable to expose a fetus even minimal risk. Therefore, drinking alcohol during pregnancy must be excluded at all. Moreover, it would be better for the future parents to stop taking alcohol in the period before conception (at least three months prior to it).
Of all the toxic substances that may interfere with the physical and mental development of an offspring, alcohol plays a key role. The FAS is a consequence of drinking. It includes such features as the characteristic structure of facial abnormalities, growth retardation, and brain damage. Today, beyond the FAS, there are a number of disorders that are caused by alcohol consumption during pregnancy. In some children, who have been affected by alcohol in utero, there is a violation of the nervous system, which manifests itself in a significant delay in the language development, in the occurrence of hyperactivity and attention deficit, as well as the delay of intellectual development.