In its simplest term Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is a spectrum of behavioural, emotional, physical and neurological issues that are caused by the consumption of alcohol on a developing foetus during pregnancy.
Although it’s still under-diagnosed, statistics suggest that approximately 1% of all babies born may have some form of FASD, meaning around one baby is born each day in the North East with some form of the disorder.
There are several classifications under the broad umbrella term Foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) these are:
- Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) – this is the easier condition to identify as it is usually characterised by facial deformities – i.e. thin upper lip, flattened face etc.
- Partial FAS (pFAS);
- Alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD);
- Alcohol-related neuro-developmental disorder (ARND)
Alcohol is a toxin and a teratogen which is a substance that disrupts the development of body organs and can even result in death. Alcohol in a mother’s blood stream passes freely through the placenta to the developing child, and as the foetus does not have a fully developed liver, it cannot filter out these toxins.
The more, and the more often, a women drinks it places the foetus at greater risk of developing a lifelong disability that has no cure. But it is preventable.
The National Organisation on Foetal Alcohol Syndrome - UK (NOFAS-UK) reports that exact prevalence of FASD in the UK is not known. International prevalence studies in countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia, Finland, Japan and Italy state that at least 1 in 100 children are affected. This would equate to at least 6,000–7,000 babies born with FASD each year in the UK.1
FASD as a disability remains largely unrecognised in the UK by a range of professional practitioners and there is an absence of local FASD-specific diagnostic facilities and support services for individuals and families affected by FASD. There is only one FASD specific diagnostic clinic to serve the UK and it costs around £2,500 to gain a diagnosis.
Symptoms of FASD
- Pre and post natal growth impairments:
- smaller head circumference
- heart problems
- limb and skeletal damage
- kidney damage
- damage to the structure of the brain
- eye problems
- hearing problems
- epicanthal folds
- flat nasal bridge
- smaller than normal eye openings
- upturned nose
- indistinct philtrum (the ridge between the nose and the upper lip)
- thin upper lip
- attention deficits
- memory deficits
- difficulty with abstract concepts (e.g. maths, time and money)
- poor problem-solving skills
- difficulty learning from consequences
- poor judgement
- immature behaviour
- poor impulse control
- confused social skills.
For further information visit www.fasdnetwork.org