Twenty-six episodes of ‘The A-Files’ will run throughout Alcohol Awareness Month on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Alcohologist.com and AddictedMinds.com, among other web and social media sites. Episode F looks at fetal exposure to alcohol.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) are now more common than autism and a child is born with one in the range of FASDs every 4.5 minutes. The responsibility for FASD isn’t all on mom. Research published in Animal Cells and Systems suggests the father’s drinking may contribute. The authors concluded that alcohol consumption affects genes in sperm which are responsible for normal fetal development.
The unborn use the same blood and therefore have the same blood alcohol concentration (BAC) as the mother. The fetus lacks the ability to process the alcohol the way an adult does, so the BAC remains high for a long time, causing a number of physical, cognitive, social and neurological problems that are permanent and irreversible. And sometimes fatal. A developing baby doesn’t know the difference between an alcoholic or a social drinker: The alcohol is the same. Any amount of alcohol risks infant development because alcohol is a toxin. The byproduct of alcohol metabolism, acetaldehyde, is even more toxic and any quantity can be responsible for physical deformities.
A study released in April 2015 by Australia’s University of New South Wales found an increased risk of low birth weight even if the mother was treated for an alcohol use disorder 12 months before conception. Alcohol causes lasting changes in a mother’s DNA, which explains the problems in the babies even long after the drinking ceased. And long after birth. As many as 40,000 babies are born with an FASD annually, costing the U.S. up to $6 billion annually in institutional and medical costs. Costs of FAS alone are estimated at between 1 and 5 million dollars per child.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reiterated in a 2015 report that no amount of alcohol in any trimester is safe. Authors said in the report: First trimester drinking (vs. no drinking) produces 12 times the odds of giving birth to a child with FASD, first and second trimester drinking increases FASD odds 61 times, and drinking in all trimesters increases FASD odds 65 times.
A 2016 study conducted by the Center for Development and Behavioral Neuroscience even suggests the child exposed to alcohol in the womb, with or without an FASD, is more prone to alcohol use disorders the rest of his or her life. Something you wouldn’t wish upon your worst enemy.