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Give A Fair Chance

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

A glass of wine does us lots of good, we can all happily agree. But, let’s vow to put it aside during pregnancy, says Pearl Mathias, who delves into the less well-known condition of foetal alcohol syndrome

Did you know that when alcohol passes down to the foetus, it restricts its ability to receive oxygen and other nutrients? In fact, a foetus’s system cannot break down alcohol the way the mother’s body can and so, the alcohol will stay in the baby’s blood for a far longer than it will in the mother’s?

Globally, nearly eight out of every 1,000 children are born with foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), in which the mother consumed alcohol when she was pregnant. This alcohol is transmitted from the mother’s blood stream to the foetus through the placenta. It has the propensity to cause developmental problems as the child grows. So, in addition to vowing to put down your glass, take this quiz to find out how much do you know about the syndrome?

1) It is safe to drink a little alcohol when you’re pregnant.
a) True.
b) False.

2) The foetus is affected by the alcohol only in the later stages of pregnancy, (so you can have wine during the initial stages).
a) True.
b) False.

3) You can diagnose foetal alcohol syndrome beforehand.
a) True.
b) False.

4) There is a cure for foetal alcohol syndrome.
a) True.
b) False.

5) Children with foetal alcohol syndrome will develop impairments in both physical and mental functioning.
a) True.
b) False.

6) Foetal alcohol syndrome is preventable.
a) True.
b) False.

7) Foetal alcohol syndrome, like autism, is a spectrum disorder.
a) True.
b) False.

8) Children born with foetal alcohol syndrome have strengths as well.
a) True.
b) False.


1. b) False.
Absolutely not! Don’t let a lone unreliable study be your excuse for tippling. Drinking during pregnancy is not worth it at all. Alcohol is one of the most dangerous teratogens (substances harmful to a developing foetus) and unlike other food that is consumed, it passes directly from the bloodstream through the placenta to the baby. This, coupled with cigarette smoking, puts your baby at high risk.

2. b) False.
Several conditions can put your baby at risk of developing foetal alcohol syndrome. The mother and baby’s genetics, how much alcohol you drink, the period of consumption during pregnancy as well as what developmental stage the foetus is at play a big role in determining this. But, this doesn’t mean that drinking at specific times won’t harm your baby. Even a drop of alcohol can put your baby at risk, no matter the stage of pregnancy.

3. a) True.
With foetal alcohol syndrome, earlier the diagnosis the better for the child. If you happen to consume alcohol during your pregnancy, even in tiny amounts, be sure to let your OB-GYN know about it. This will help your doctor to prepare for the risks of your baby developing the disorder and take measures at an early stage.

4. b) False.
Alcohol damages your baby’s brain and nervous system, and there’s no going back from there. There are medications that are available to help young children and adults who are born with this disability. Behavioural training and counselling will also be of help. But, there is no cure for the condition. The family should cultivate a loving and supportive environment for the child, as children with FAS are easily susceptible to violence or substance abuse later in life.

5. a) True.
The impairments that develop in children born with this disability may vary from case to case, and can be emotional as well as physical. These usually include attention deficit disorder, learning disability, hyperactivity, poor co-ordination and poor social skills. They may exhibit aggressive behaviour and are typically moody. They may also suffer from heart problems, kidney defects, deformed limbs and fingers and delayed development.

6. a) True.
Of course, it is! And it’s literally in your hands to prevent this from occurring. All you need to do is to put your baby’s life first and not give in to the momentary pleasure of consuming alcohol. The temptation may bring you happiness in the moment, but it will be short lived and pose a great risk to your child’s development, only because you couldn’t exercise self control. Your role as a mother starts by caring for the foetus, and not only when you can hold your baby in your arms.

7. a) True.
A spectrum disorder means that symptoms may be wide ranging — all over the spectrum, so to speak. The child may be slightly affected by the disability or severely affected. But, this doesn’t mean that those who display less severe degrees of the symptoms don’t need the same kind of attention. With FAS, it’s the brain that is affected and this requires care and attention throughout their life.

8. a) True.
We’ve been going on about the downsides of the disorder in order to hammer home the message about being cautious during this stage of your baby’s life. But, if your child is diagnosed with FAS, don’t lose hope. Despite the challenges these children face, they are very affectionate in nature and can easily win the hearts of people they come in contact with. They are enthusiastic play buddies for other children. Although they are moody, their moodiness dissolves in the blink of an eye; before you know it, they’ll be showering you with the affection you’re used to.

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