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Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in Adults

fetal alcohol syndrome in adults

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The effects of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) can be devastating on any family. It’s taken the lives of too many newborn children well before their time. But, the effects of FAS don’t just affect people during their childhood. There can also be lasting effects of fetal alcohol syndrome in adults.

To prevent the number of FAS cases from growing, it helps to understand the condition in more detail. Consider this article an overview of fetal alcohol syndrome. We’re going to go over what it is, how it affects us, and we’ll even touch on the symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome in adults.

What Is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)?

Fetal alcohol syndrome is a condition associated with alcohol abuse during pregnancy. This condition is a type of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). It can result in issues with nervous system development, physical defects, and learning or behavior disabilities.

Most of the time that FAS is discussed, it’s brought up in connection with newborns and toddlers. But, FAS is a lifelong condition. There are symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome in adults as well as children.

What Causes FAS?

As mentioned earlier, FAS is a condition that results from alcohol abuse during pregnancy. More specifically, the alcohol consumed by the mother eventually enters the bloodstream of the unborn child. This happens by the alcohol crossing the placenta and being absorbed by the fetus.

Children experience side effects from FAS because their livers aren’t yet developed. As a result, they can’t process alcohol the same way we can as adults.

Since the alcohol remains in the unborn child’s system, there are a number of complications that can occur. The alcohol may kill healthy cells. This killing off of good cells during the development process can result in abnormal development. The alcohol can also prevent the proper development of nervous system cells.

FAS can also affect bloodflow. The presence of alcohol in the unborn child’s environment can slow down bloodflow from the mother across the placenta. This deprives the fetus of oxygen and nutrients that are vital for proper development.

The fetus can also suffer brain damage from alcohol being metabolized in its system. This is because some of the byproducts of metabolizing alcohol can be toxic to a young, unborn baby’s system.

How To Diagnose FAS

Unfortunately, there is no medical procedure to test for FAS. Medical professionals have to rely on physical signs and symptoms for a correct diagnosis. Some of the things that doctors look for are small stature, abnormal facial features, and low body weight. Central nervous system issues such as a small head, problems with ADHD or coordination, and knowing the mother has a history of consuming alcohol during pregnancy, are also things that medical professionals need to take into account.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in Adults

Many of the signs and symptoms used to diagnose FAS in children can also be seen as signs of fetal alcohol syndrome in adults. However, in adults, these symptoms may be a little more difficult to identify. The reason is that as we grow into our bodies these symptoms become less noticeable.

Some of the physical side effects of FAS that last into adulthood are small stature, small head size, reduced brain size, and a thin upper lip.

Mental and Behavioral Symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in Adults

Mental and behavioral issues are common in adults with fetal alcohol syndrome. In fact, these types of conditions occur in almost 90% of people diagnosed with the FAS disorder.

People with FAS symptoms that last into adulthood may struggle with learning. Their ability to focus or pay attention suffers and they may also have difficuty with memory. As adults, these individuals may also struggle to make decisions or plan things. This is because the cognitive function of their brains was compromised by alcohol during crucial developmental stages.

The symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome in adults may also prevent people from processing emotions. Their central nervous system development suffers from the disorder. Therefore, they may not be able to process the emotions they feel properly. This can result in them externalizing their feelings. Feelings of anger or aggression can end up being taken out on other people around them as a result.

A good number of adults who experience FAS symptoms can internalize emotions, too. Instead of taking anger or aggression out on others, these individuals struggle with the mental health conditions that result from keeping things in. Anxiety, depression, and OCD are just a few of the disorders individuals in this category can struggle with.

Secondary Conditions

It’s not so easy to diagnose the disorder when you’re dealing with fetal alcohol syndrome in adults. These individuals are in a different phase of their life than during childhood. They have to take care of themselves, manage money, find housing, and find employment. Adults still struggling with FAS may struggle with these things.

On the surface, it may seem like they’re fine but the problems they have managing “adult life” may stem from their lingering FAS. Studies have shown that almost 90% of people suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome in adults have never kept a steady job. At least 70% of those people are completely unemployed.

These individuals may even struggle to live life on their own. The statistics show that 80% of adults struggling with FAS need help with daily activities. A large percentage, About two-thirds, live in an assisted-living or institutional environment. In addition, another 60% struggle with alcohol dependence or drug addiction in their own adult lives.

Preventing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

The best way to prevent fetal alcohol syndrome is to abstain from alcohol during pregnancy. Many years ago we didn’t have the mountains of data on the negative effects of alcohol like we do now. We know now that drinking during pregnancy can have serious, harmful effects for the unborn child. And once FAS develops, there’s no going back.

There’s no cure or medication for FAS. As a child grows into adulthood they may be able to take medication for symptoms like depression, but the FAS will always be there.

If you or a loved one have a child on the way and are struggling to quit drinking, please get help. Contact Just Believe Recovery Center any time. We are more than happy to help and we can help you find a program that’s right for you and your family.


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