Effects of Alcohol: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
Scientists know much more about the effects of alcohol on fetal development these days. The risk of incurring fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in your unborn baby could mean you really need to seek out some kind of treatment for alcohol addiction.
Epigenetics: Cell Identification and Development
Since the human genome has been successfully decoded, scientists now focus on understanding how changes in genes can affect a person’s health or even result in his death. Epigenetics is a term used to describe how each cell has its own identity and acquires its function. Early fetal cells divide and differentiate, and each type of cell has its own pattern or switch that tells it when to kick in or when to shut off. Strands of DNA are encoded with the information necessary to perform developmental or physiologic function.
Epigenetics scientists now know that during fetal development a process called methylation refers to a quartet of atoms that affect how a gene functions. The use of alcohol in a pregnant woman can slow down the process of methylation so that genes do not express themselves properly. Also, the metabolism of alcohol produces an increased amount of a substance called NADH, which likewise affects methylation and additional aspects of genetic regulation.
The Dangers of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
Scientists have revised their previous term for fetal alcohol syndrome to include a whole variety of permanent conditions caused by the mother’s alcohol use during pregnancy. Maternal use of alcohol can impair brain development of the fetus, and if this happens during critical periods then the baby will exhibit learning and behavioral problems as he grows.
The exact effects on a fetus depend upon how much alcohol has been ingested as well as when it is ingested over the duration of the pregnancy. Is it ingested daily or is the ingestion a random event? There are also differences in genetic susceptibility to alcohol exposure.
At the time of the baby’s birth the doctor may notice that the baby exhibits specific facial features: A shortened distance between the inner and outer corners of the eyes, the lack of a groove on the face between the nose and the upper lip, and a very thin upper lip. Two out of three indicates fetal alcohol syndrome.
Babies born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders can display a delayed ability to learn and difficulty in remembering what they’ve learned. As they grow they exhibit short attention spans and incorrigibly impulsive behavior. The baby’s growth or height is below normal.
Over time, the effects of alcohol on fetal development can result in deficiencies in ten brain domains, identified by scientists to include achievement, attention, adaptation, language, executive functioning, cognition, motor skills, memory, social communication, and sensory and soft neurological processes.
Get Treatment Now
Do you worry if your use of alcohol will negatively affect your baby? Why take a chance? If you’re thinking of getting pregnant or if you’re already expecting, you’ve got to stop drinking now. However, alcohol withdrawal can also impose dangers to the unborn fetus. The professional staff at an alcohol rehab center can help you, and it will guarantee a much better life for your unborn baby.