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Alcohol Exposure to Unborn Babies


While most people consider April to represent the beginning of spring, few know that it is Alcohol Awareness Month as well as Distracted Driving Injury Awareness Month. This year’s April is the 29th Alcohol Awareness Month. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) founded and sponsors the initiative. The initiative’s aim is twofold. It serves to raise awareness and understanding of the stigma that is attached to alcoholism. It also strives to reduce this stigma to propel afflicted individuals and their family members to seek help.

Why Distracted Driving Injury Awareness Month is so Important

Although few are aware of it, over 18 million Americans are struggling with alcohol-use disorders. The pain and suffering doesn’t stop with the individual who is addicted to alcohol. It widens out to his or her family members, including children. When you take a step back and consider how the misuse of alcohol negatively impacts the well-being of one’s family, their finances and general stability, you get a better idea of just how crippling it really is.

Alcohol and Pregnancy Do Not Mix

The unfortunate truth is that one quarter of children in the United States have been exposed to a family member who is battling with alcohol addition. Yet witnessing a parent who suffers from alcohol addiction pales in comparison to the lifelong struggle of those who suffer from alcohol-related birth injuries. These injuries are commonly described as physical “defects” that are directly linked to the mother’s use of alcohol during pregnancy. Examples of alcohol-related birth defects include eye, ear, kidney, heart and skeletal malformations.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is the umbrella term that is commonly used to cover the myriad of adverse effects that can be generated in an infant when the mother drinks alcohol during pregnancy. While it is difficult to pinpoint exactly how many children suffer from FASD, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes that between 800 and 8,000 babies are born with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) every year in the United States. Considering that we are living in the information age, this figure is far too high. One of the goals of Alcohol Awareness Month is to inform future mothers and fathers about the dangers of consuming alcohol while pregnant.

FAS is found on the extreme end of the FASD spectrum due to its egregious infant abnormalities. Central nervous system abnormalities, including neurologic, structural and functional or a combination of the three, are among the signs and symptoms. FAS also manifests itself in growth deficits such as an abnormally low weight, height or both. Other indications can include facial abnormalities like a very thin upper lip, an overly smooth philtrum (the space between the upper lip and nose) and diminutive palpebral fissures (horizontal eye openings).

Pregnant mothers who consume alcohol also expose their unborn children to alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND). Those who suffer from ARND do not suffer from unusual facial features or growth challenges, yet they do have issues with how their nervous system and brain form and function. They commonly struggle with behavioral problems, learning challenges, intellectual disabilities and brain/nerve abnormalities. Other alcohol-related birth defects include hearing, vision and bone problems as well as the improper formation and function of the kidneys, heart and other organs.

Ohio Birth Injury Lawyers are Here to Help

The problems outlined above occur as the alcohol consumed by the pregnant mother travels along the placenta and enters the infant’s blood. When it reaches the bloodstream, it often harms the developing brain and organs. Unfortunately, much of the damage often is caused before the mother even knows that she is pregnant. Therefore, it is imperative that sexually active women perform pregnancy tests on a regular basis. Medical professionals cannot confidently say how much alcohol it takes to harm a baby. The only way to prevent alcohol-related birth defects is for pregnant mothers to completely abstain from the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. Those who suffer from alcohol-related birth defects should not hesitate to reach out to a Ohio birth injury lawyer for valuable legal assistance.

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