Conquering Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: Exploring the Top 9 Methods for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Treatment
Fetal alcohol syndrome is a condition that falls under the umbrella term of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, or FASD. FASD refers to any condition in which an infant has permanent birth defects due to the mother consuming alcohol during pregnancy. This condition occurs in about one to two children per 1,000 births. Symptoms are wide ranging. Children with FASD may exhibit skeletal defects such as spinal curvature, extra fingers, a limited range of joint movement, or an undersized skull. Organs are often affected as well, leading to heart murmurs, kidney problems, and genital defects. Mental handicaps such as mental retardation, inadequate language skills, and behavioral problems can also arise. FASD has no cure, but you can take these nine steps to ensure prevention and proper fetal alcohol syndrome treatment for your child.
1) Prevention and Early Diagnosis
FASD is completely preventable. If you are a pregnant woman, you should not consume alcoholic beverages. Consumption of alcohol during pregnancy can have direct negative health consequences for the fetus. The best way to minimize the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome and subsequent fetal alcohol syndrome treatment is through prevention and early diagnosis. Getting early medical attention for your child can help diagnose this condition when the child is still very young. This means the child will have a greater chance of enrolling in critical social service programs and receiving specialized educational attention. Because 94% of those who have fetal alcohol syndrome in infancy suffer from mental health challenges later in life, it is important to diagnose early so that you, your family members, and your child’s educators can provide the individual support your child needs to live a long, fruitful life.
A study of eighty women in the State of Washington who gave birth to children with FASD showed that 77% had unplanned pregnancies. In addition, 81% of these women had not used birth control during conception, although 92% wanted to use some sort of birth control. This indicates that proper use of and education about contraception can go a long way toward preventing fetal alcohol syndrome. If you are sexually active but do not wish to have a child, it is prudent to seek out such services.
3) Experimental Treatment: N-Methyl-d-Aspartate Receptor Antagonists
A recent study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) indicates that N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor antagonists may mitigate negative developmental effects of FASD. An NMDA receptor is a chemical that plays an important role in neuroplasticity, or the ability of the brain to develop. Alcohol inhibits this receptor, but alcohol withdrawal in the mother can cause fatal cell death in the fetus. Administering NMDA receptor antagonists, which block the NMDA receptor during the withdrawal period, may reduce mental and behavioral defects in children born with FASD. Due to the highly experimental nature of this treatment, however, you should proceed with caution and consult a doctor when considering it.
4) Experimental Treatment: Antioxidant Consumption
Researchers at the NIH have also found preliminary results suggesting that consumption of antioxidants can decrease the risk of birth defects associated with FASD. Antioxidants are molecules that protect cells against radicals that cause the cells to oxidize, leading to disease. Foods rich in antioxidants, such as turmeric and green tea, may inhibit the negative effects of alcohol on the fetus. Vitamins C and E also have important antioxidant properties, making them particularly beneficial during pregnancy. If you are pregnant, however, please note that antioxidants do not block all negative effects of alcohol. You should therefore avoid drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
5) Experimental Treatment: Nutritional Supplements
In addition to Vitamins C and E, which have antioxidant properties, other micronutrients may be beneficial in countering FASD symptoms. Scientists have found that zinc supplementation may mitigate cognitive impairments in young infants. Nicotinamide can also protect against cell death in infants related to alcohol consumption by pregnant women. Consumption of prenatal vitamins, following a doctor’s recommendations, may reduce the effects of alcohol consumption on your fetus.
6) Experimental Treatment: Pharmacology
Pharmacology is the scientific branch of medicine concerning the different classes of drugs and how they can be used therapeutically to habilitate people with various conditions. Scientists at the NIH are experimenting with pharmacological methods to alleviate the symptoms of FASD. Preliminary pharmacology trials on ferrets at the NIH have indicated that agents inhibiting the enzyme phosphodiesterase (PDE) can improve neuroplasticity in subjects with FASD. PDE inhibitors may therefore have the potential to increase learning ability and memory in children who need fetal alcohol syndrome treatment. If you have a child with FASD and are interested in this experimental treatment, contact a pharmacologist.
7) Educational Attention and Other Social Services
The best chance a child diagnosed with FASD has to succeed and develop is with special education services. On average, 43% of those diagnosed with FASD or related conditions drop out of school or have disrupted school experiences. Enrolling children in special education services targeted toward their specific developmental and social needs can increase their chances of living fulfilling lives and receiving a high-school education. Families should also take advantage of available social services, including stress management training, behavioral management resources, and respite care.
8) Creating a Stimulating Environment
By creating a stimulating environment, your family can potentially improve the neuroplasticity in your child and provide greater fetal alcohol syndrome treatment. According to the NIH, it is important to create a play environment with educational and interactive toys, such as moving toys, toys with multiple parts, and interactive games. Motor learning is important for children with FASD, particularly outdoor stimulation, role play, and situational lessons. As with any mental handicap or condition, children with FASD should be stimulated in a variety of ways in order to accelerate neuroplasticity and increase the potential for the brain to learn. Children suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome have a higher chance of dropping out of school and engaging in delinquency. As a parent, you should therefore take extra care to engage your child’s interests and foster educational passions that will allow him or her to develop cognitively and socially.
9) Providing a Safe and Nurturing Community of Support
If you have a child with FASD, it is important to raise her or him in a supportive and nurturing environment. Fully 60% of children diagnosed with this condition will engage in illicit behavior later on in life. Additionally, 45% engage in inappropriate sexual behavior, often at an early age. Studies indicate that children with FASD have challenges developing socially and are also more sensitive to disruptions in the home, such as a high level of family instability. You, along with your other family members, can act as a guide for children with FASD and help educate your community about the condition. This will help ensure the emotional and social support your child needs to develop properly and become a productive, fulfilled citizen.