Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) Definition, Symptoms & Treatment: Drinking Alcohol Even During First Week of Pregnancy can Harm the Baby

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Feb 03, 2016 05:30 AM EST

Women who could possibly be pregnant but drink alcohol could possibly bear children with fetal alcohol syndrome.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this week that over 3.3 million women between the ages 15 and 44 who drink and are sexually active may risk exposing their unborn child to fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). The agency said that even drinking on the first week of pregnancy can have some effect on the baby, according to the study.

"We know that alcohol use during pregnancy can cause birth defects and developmental disabilities in babies, as well as an increased risk of other pregnancy problems, such as miscarriage, stillbirth, and prematurity," said Dr. Coleen Boyle, the CDC director of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, in a press release. "This is an important reminder that women should not drink any alcohol while pregnant. It's just not worth the risk."

The researchers looked at the data from the 2011--2013 National Survey of Family Growth which revealed that married women aged 35 to 44 years old over single women had the highest percentage of alcohol use. Smokers and those who have had children in the past were at higher risk for alcohol use as well compared to sexually active teens. The CDC reports that no amount of alcohol is safe for pregnant women.

"Women who are pregnant or might be pregnant should be aware that there is no known safe level of alcohol that can be consumed at any time during pregnancy. All types of alcohol should be avoided, including red or white wine, beer, and liquor," the authors of the study wrote in the release.

The conclusion of the study revealed that drinking alcohol while pregnant "can cause lasting physical, behavioral and intellectual disabilities that can last for a child's lifetime," according to the CDC. These disabilities called FAS affects 1 in 20 school children and is highly preventable if the mother stops drinking alcohol as soon as she is off birth control.

According to Kids Health, children with FAS is characterized by developmental delay, low birth weight, small head circumference, facial abnormalities, poor coordination and socialization skills and learning difficulties. It is a life-long problem that can intensify through adulthood as it can cause physical and mental health problems later in life. There is no cure or treatment for FAS. However, early intervention strategies can help the child manage and become more independent.

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