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FASD: What is known 50 years later

Babies are so precious. If you are a parent, or about to become one, you know how much you have thought about what the future holds for that tiny being that grows so quickly right in front of your eyes. You want to get it right. But you know that sometimes all you can do is your best and hope it’s enough.

Babies cuddle and snuggle against you, grip your little finger and your heart. They depend on our care and love. Sometimes they smell sweet and of baby lotion, sometimes vomit and messy diapers. They latch onto the scent of the person who meets their needs – a little thing called bonding.

How far we have come. Over the past 50 years a lot of research has gone into the subject of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. It has since become an umbrella term for a number of conditions: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. FASD refers to intellectual and behavioral problems that can appear any time in childhood and last a lifetime, says the National Institute on Alcohol, Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) at the National Institutes of Health.

September is FASD Prevention and Awareness Month. There are goals, beginning with not drinking during pregnancy. Not drinking is the way to prevent the problems associated with the disorders. Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant have been urged for decades to get into their bodies into their best physical condition before pregnancy. Agencies like Family Recovery Center offer treatment for women with alcohol use disorder (AUD).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that .3 of every 1,000 children in the country has a FASD diagnosis which is often diagnosed at about 9.5 years old. Reportedly, 1 to 5 percent of U.S. first graders have some form of FASD:

— FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome).

— Partial FAS.

— ARND (alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder).

— ARBD (alcohol-related birth defects).

— ND-PAE (neurobehavioral disorder associated with prenatal alcohol exposure)

Do you cringe every time you see a pregnant woman in a TV show or read in a novel that she drinks alcohol? Take a look at these data. “Drinking and smoking during pregnancy linked with still birth.” “Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders may increase risk of Type 2 diabetes and other metabolic issues.” “Combined prenatal smoking and drinking greatly increases SIDS risk.” “Using both marijuana and alcohol during pregnancy may increase likelihood of disrupting fetal development.”

There is so much information out there on the topic. Binge drinking (consuming four or more drinks in about two hours) and regular heavy drinking put the fetus at greatest risk for severe problems, experts say. “There is no known safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy.”

FASD -related problems include learning and remembering, understanding and following directions, inability to focus attention, control of impulses and emotions, communicating and socialization skills, just being able to feed and bathe themselves. The effects of FASD will be with them for their lifetimes; they never go away.

Someone who is pregnant and abuses substances might want to go back to the top of this article, the first paragraph

Family Recovery Center offers mental health services as well as addiction services. The goal is for the health and well-being of all. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or email, info@familyrecovery.org. Visit the website at familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded in part by Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.

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