Pediatrician’s Corner – Dr. Pradeep Gidwani
Alcohol Awareness Month
If a woman drinking alcohol during pregnancy, her baby is at risk for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, or FASDs. An estimated 40,000 babies are born each year with FASDs, which can result in birth defects, intellectual or learning disabilities, behavior problems and trouble learning life skills. These difficulties last a lifetime. Each person with an FASD is affected slightly differently.
FASDs are 100% preventable. The only sure way to prevent FASDs is to completely avoid alcohol use while pregnant. Women who are trying to get pregnant or who could get pregnant also should avoid alcohol. This is because damage from prenatal alcohol exposure can occur even during the earliest weeks of pregnancy, even before a woman realizes she’s pregnant. Despite myths, there is no scientific evidence available that sets a “safe” amount of alcohol that will not affect the developing fetus. Research evidence indicates that even drinking small amounts of alcohol while pregnant can lead to: miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity.
Diagnosing FASDs can be difficult because there is no single or simple test that can cover the broad range of FASD signs and symptoms. A pediatric medical home provider and/or other pediatric or developmental specialists usually make the FASD diagnosis after one or more appropriate evaluations. Certain physical findings, developmental problems, behavioral concerns, or school failure should trigger the parents and the pediatric medical home to consider FASDs as potential diagnoses. Children with an FASD can have brain abnormalities that lead to problems in day-to-day functioning despite having a normal IQ, so a comprehensive evaluation is indicated. All children with involvement in foster care or adoption processes, especially international adoptions, should always be evaluated for a possible FASD.
FASDs last a lifetime. There is no cure for FASDs, but identifying children with FASDs as early as possible can help them reach their potential. Research has shown that early identification and enrollment in treatment can significantly improve an affected child’s development and life.
Treatments have been shown to help, but no one treatment is right for every child since one FASD differs from another. FASDs need a medical home to provide, coordinate, and facilitate all the necessary medical, behavioral, social, and educational services.
Many types of treatment are available, including developmental services, educational and behavioral interventions, social skills training, medications, other medical therapies, advocacy in school and the workplace, and referral for community support services.
Treatment plans should be adaptable to the child’s and family’s needs, plus include close monitoring and follow-up. In San Diego County, we are lucky to have resources for families whose child has FASD. UCSD Pediatrics / Rady Children’s Hospital has a special clinic for children with FASD.
For more information please visit www.socalnofas.org or call the Institute for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Discovery at (858) 822-3785.
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