Do you know the consequences of drinking alcohol during pregnancy?

20.06.2020

A teratogenic agent is any chemical, physical agent, infectious agent or deficiency state with the potential to produce a morphological or functional alteration in the fetus or child after birth. In this sense, it should be noted that not all teratogens affect equally, they do not affect to the same extent at all stages of pregnancy.

However, alcohol can affect the development of the central nervous system during the nine months of pregnancy. There is no time during pregnancy when it is safe to drink, since the placenta is not able to filter alcohol. Alcohol consumption during pregnancy can lead to the development of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, with fetal alcohol syndrome being the most serious of the continuum.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are a continuum of disturbances, from mild to severe, caused by exposure of a fetus to alcohol. These include fetal alcohol syndrome, FAS (most serious condition), partial fetal alcohol syndrome (PFAS), alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder, neurobehavioral disorder related to prenatal alcohol exposure, and other birth defects. related to alcohol.

Children with fetal alcohol syndrome often have developmental and mental retardation, hyperactivity, clumsiness, attention deficit, and learning and epileptic disorders. In addition to some characteristic facial alterations.

The type of changes that occur will depend on the time and frequency of consumption, the amount of alcohol consumed and the age of the mother. Consumption can have very varied consequences and the probability of developing fetal alcohol syndrome is between 1 and 7%.

Morphological alterations at the facial and cerebral level

  • Facial disturbances: smooth nasolabial groove, thinner than normal upper lip, small palpebral fissure, micrognathia (small lower jaw), low nasal bridge and flattened nose, small eye openings.
  • Microcephaly.
  • Decreased overall size of the brain, especially in the telencephalon and cerebellum.
  • Smaller size of the basal ganglia, especially the caudate nucleus and less metabolic activity in it.
  • Agenesis of the corpus callosum (total or partial absence thereof).
  • Inverted hippocampal asymmetry. Smaller size of left hippocampus than right hippocampus, compared to healthy children.
  • Decreased volume of the frontal lobes, especially in the left hemisphere.

The alterations present in the partial FAS are very similar to those present in the FAS, but milder, and their sequelae are less severe. In the case of alcohol-related neurological disorder, there are no physical disorders, but they do have brain disorders, intellectual disabilities, and learning and behavioral disorders.

The neurobehavioral disorder related to prenatal alcohol exposure produces alteration in three areas: in the capacity for self-regulation, in cognitive functions and in adaptive mechanisms. Among alcohol-related birth defects are heart, kidney and bone disorders, hearing and vision disturbances.

Neuropsychological disorders derived from fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

Deficits in executive function and attention are central disorders in children with fetal alcohol syndrome. They present visual attention problems, difficulty in cognitive flexibility, in response inhibition and in planning skills. They also present alterations in the resolution of abstract problems and in working memory. There is a high incidence of cognitive delay and PFAS in children with fetal alcohol syndrome.

Academic performance is also impaired in children with FAS. About 40% of children will need support services and special education at some point during the school stage. Mathematics seems to be the most affected area, with reading and spelling being the least affected areas.

Language skills are not particularly affected, but it has been found that children with FAS can present difficulties in language comprehension. They often have motor clumsiness: disturbances of balance, visomotor integration, and fine and gross motor skills.

At the psychosocial level, they may have social skills problems and difficulty adopting the point of view of others, so they can act on their own impulses. This disinhibition may also be the cause of future disruptive behaviors or drug problems.

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