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Consequences of Drinking during Pregnancy

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (Pregnant Women BEWARE)
Drinking alcohol can be bad for anyone if done in excess.  If can be that bad for an adult, can you imagine how worse it is for young people?  Indeed it is even worse if consumed by children, but what is worst is the negative effect it has on unborn babies, that is on babies who are still in the mother’s womb. Pregnant women, beware of the great suffering you can bring unto your babies for the rest of their lives if you are negligent and irresponsible or perhaps unaware of this.

Alcohol is part of our culture—it helps us celebrate and socialize, and it enhances our religious ceremonies. But drinking too much—on a single occasion or over time—can have serious consequences for our health. Most of us recognize that drinking too much can lead to accidents and dependence among other issues. But that’s only part of the story. In addition to these serious problems, alcohol use can damage organs, weaken the immune system, and contribute to cancers. It is astounding to see how alcohol consumption damages even the unborn child!

One of the many damages caused by alcohol in today’s society is The Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can result in many different physical, neurological and psychological effects that range in gravity. These effects fall under the term “Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)”, which envelops all the problems that result from prenatal alcohol exposure. The most known of these effects is the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE), which is further separated into Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND) and Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD).

What is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)?
FAS is one of the most common causes of mental retardation and the only one that 100% preventable. The damages are irreversible and last for a lifetime! These include: mental retardation, malformations of the skeletal system, malformations of major organ systems (specifically the heart and brain), growth deficiencies, central nervous system problems, poor motor skills, mortality, and problems with learning, memory, social interaction, attention span, problem solving, speech, and/or hearing. Some facial features that are characteristic of FAS are small eyes, short or upturned nose, flat cheeks, and thin lips. These features fade as the child grows, but the child is left with a lifetime of difficulties trying to cope with the other effects.

What are Fetal Alcohol Effects?
There are two categories under FAE which are Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopment Disorder (ARND) and Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD).

ARND describes the mental and behavioral impairments such as learning disabilities, poor school performance, poor impulse control, and problems with memory, attention and/or judgment.

ARBD describes the malformations of the skeletal system and major organ systems such as defects of the heart, kidneys, bones, and or/auditory system.

How is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome different from Fetal Alcohol Effects?
FAS is a result of high doses of alcohol consumption before or during pregnancy such as binge drinking (drinking more than four drinks in a short period of time) and/or drinking on a regular basis. FAE is a result of moderate drinking during pregnancy. All damages are irreversible and lifelong.

There is no amount of alcohol that is safe to consume during pregnancy, but the more alcohol consumed, the greater the risk to your developing baby. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Effects are 100% preventable for a woman who completely abstains from alcohol during pregnancy. Therefore, my smart Belizean women, if you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant or think you could get pregnant, you should not consume any amount of alcohol.

For more information on Alcohol or other drugs feel free to contact the National Drug Abuse Control Council Office at 227-0528 or visit our Face Book account – NDACC San Pedro. We also have Outreach Caseworkers available to help you. The Drug Educator for San Pedro and Caye Caulker is Ms. Kristina Romero and the Outreach Caseworker is Mrs. Joyce Ellis.

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