Shaken Baby Syndrome

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Amniotic fluid problems

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Choosing a pre-school

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Antenatal Classes

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  • Shaken Baby Syndrome

    Tuesday, 21 July 2015 16:28
  • Amniotic fluid problems

    Thursday, 14 May 2015 12:54
  • Choosing a pre-school

    Friday, 10 April 2015 17:50
  • Newborn reflexes

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:49
  • Mastitis

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:41
  • Pelvic floor exercises

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:20
  • Colic

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:11
  • Antenatal Classes

    Monday, 03 June 2013 09:34
  • Strap-in-the-Future

    Thursday, 30 June 2011 13:52

Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders


When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, so does her unborn child. Alcohol travels from the mother's blood, through the placenta, to the baby via the umbilical cord. Alcohol enters the foetal bloodstream in approximately the same concentrations present in the mother's blood; and it takes the foetus twice as long as its mother to eliminate the alcohol from its system. There is no known safe time or amount of alcohol to drink during pregnancy. According to the Institute of Medicine (1996); alcohol causes more damage to the developing foetus than any other substance, including marijuana, heroine, and cocaine. It is therefore advisable that alcohol is avoided completely during pregnancy. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and a range of disorders known as foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs).

Foetal alcohol spectrum disorder; is a group of health and developmental problems seen in infants exposed to alcohol in utero. The syndrome is characterized by; stunted growth, abnormal facial features and brain damage, manifesting as learning or behavioral difficulties.

Babies with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) don't sleep well; have problems eating; and are sensitive to light, touch and noise. Some babies born with this condition also have heart defects. Affected babies may show a large range of abnormalities, including:

  • small size for gestational age at birth
  • small head circumference and brain size (microcephaly)
  • epicanthal folds (folds of tissue at the inner corner of the eye)
  • small, widely spaced eyes
  • flat midface
  • short, upturned nose
  • smooth, wide surface under the nose
  • small mouth with angles turned down
  • thin upper lip with indistinct philtrum (the ridge between the upper lip and nose is barely visible)
  • deformities of the joints, lips and fingers
  • micrognathia
  • reduced somatic and brain growth

Alcohol also causes lasting damage evinced in learning and behavioral problems, such as; poor attention span, short-term memory problems, hyperactivity, an inability to understand maths, time and money, poor problem solving abilities, an inability to understand cause and effect, poor coordination/fine motor skills,  childish behaviour, impulsivity, aggression and antisocial behaviour. Alcohol consumption during pregnancy can result in permanent brain damage, ranging from mental retardation through to severe mental handicaps. Speech impediments, hearing loss, eye disorders, epilepsy, strabismus, organ dysfunction and genital deformities are other possible outcomes.

Problems associated with FAS tend to intensify as children move into adolescence and adulthood. This may include mental health problems, troubles with the law and an inability to live independently.

There is no cure or specific treatment for FAS- learning problems may be helped by special school services, heart defects and other physical abnormalities may require surgery, and some parents benefit from counseling, to help them cope with their child's behavioral problems.

Foetal alcohol syndrome is a health condition commonly found in developed countries. It is the leading cause of non-genetic mental handicap in the western world and the only one that is 100% preventable. Not all individuals from alcohol exposed pregnancies have overt signs of FAS; differences in genetic make-up may also make a person more or less susceptible to the damage that alcohol can cause. The amount of alcohol, the time during pregnancy that alcohol is consumed, and the pattern of alcohol use, all contribute to the signs and symptoms that are found.

Since there is no conclusive evidence as to how much alcohol is completely safe during pregnancy; pregnant women in general, women who are trying to conceive and those who practice unprotected intercourse, are recommended to abstain from alcohol completely because its detrimental effects are noticeable, even in the earliest stages of pregnancy. Although the problems caused by FAS differ from one child to another, the defects caused by the condition are irreversible. So before you reach for that glass of wine, here is a sobering thought….

"Drinking when pregnant could leave you with a hangover for a lifetime" - FASawareUK

This babe is so small, just four months old, seven pounds, not much at all. Placed in our arms to love and care, the rest of our lives with us to share. Unlike the other babes we'd had, this baby’s face looked old and sad. A pitiful bundle light to hold, this baby damaged by alcohol.

Brain too small to ever grow, and learn the things she needs to know. Cleft palate that would hinder speech, and eyes that out to us did reach. Tube in the nose with which to feed, a child who really had no need, of milk and only felt the pain, of needing just one drink again.

Sleepless nights and through them all, this baby suffering from withdrawal, eyes that asked to help her through, the pain that she was going through. We did for her just all we could, the therapies we knew we should, but how it hurts when we must find, she's mentally four years behind.

And now at eight and oh so small, this child who hardly grew at all, so full of life, yet wants to know "Why is it Mum that I don't grow?" So off we go now once again, on the ride of the therapy train, and pray to God one day we'll see, her grow as she was meant to be.

The advertisements never show, a child like her who's dealt the blow, of living life right from the start, different and set apart. So pregnant women everywhere, if you must drink please think of her, it's time the whole world got to know, of these baby’s damaged by alcohol.

Ann Gibson 1996

Murkoff, H.E., Eisenberg, A., & Hathaway, S.E. (3rd. ed.)(2002). What to expect when you are expecting. Pocket Books: UK.