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FASD in children more common than previously thought, says study

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy is highly discouraged as it puts the unborn child at risk. In spite of this, a large number of moms-to-be in the United States consume alcohol. What is even more disturbing is that these expectant mothers indulge in four, and sometimes more, alcoholic drinks at a time, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Having alcoholic drinks during pregnancy may increase the risk of a miscarriage and can also result in premature baby. Such babies could develop disabilities related to their development, behavior and learning. One such condition is known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). Now, a new study published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates that FASD is up to 10 times more common than experts have thought.

According to the study of four U.S. communities, FASD was prevalent in nearly 1 percent to 5 percent of first graders. This number went up as much as 10 percent in a certain location, researchers found. To get a more accurate estimate of how many children could actually have FASD, 6,639 first-grade children were observed by the researchers. For the study, FASD was diagnosed based on a standardized clinical criteria, which included a child’s growth, physical features and deformities. Their mothers’ alcohol intake during pregnancy was also considered.

“For many years, we’ve known that estimates of the prevalence of FASD were gross underestimates for a variety of reasons. To get a better sense of prevalence is labor-intensive and expensive to do. It was done in other countries (like) Italy and South Africa, but one had not been done in the United States. If this is an issue, we need to be able to demonstrate in a concrete fashion how common it is,” said Christina Chambers, one of the study’s authors.

FASD may cause stunted growth and facial abnormalities in children. What makes things more complicated is that a diagnosis for the condition is dependent on a lot of clinical judgment, as there is no blood test for it. Experts say that FASD is sometimes wrongly diagnosed as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or some other developmental condition.

Is any amount of alcohol safe during pregnancy?

Some studies show that a small amount of alcohol consumption during pregnancy may not do any harm to the fetus. However, a 2015 report from a U.S. pediatricians’ group suggested that there is no safe limit for an expectant mother and exposure to alcohol during pregnancy is the leading preventable cause of birth defects in kids. According to Dr. Janet Williams, professor of pediatrics and co-author of the report, the best choice for pregnant women is to just refrain from booze completely. In fact, for a woman planning to get pregnant, it is safest to stop drinking during the planning stage itself. It should be kept in mind that the initial few weeks of pregnancy when the woman may not be aware of her pregnancy are critical.

Birth defects, along with intellectual and neurodevelopment disabilities in children, caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol can be prevented. A woman with alcoholism should first seek professional help from a reputed rehab before planning to have a baby. A forerunner in treatment for addiction-related disorders, Sovereign Health of El Paso, Texas, offers holistic alcoholism treatment program for adult men and women. This includes a healthy combination of alcohol detox, medications and therapy. Our recovery programs are tailor-made to suit a patient’s requirements. Call our 24/7 helpline to learn about our evidence-based alcohol addiction treatment or to locate our finest alcohol rehab centers. You can also chat online with a representative to know more about our detox programs.

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