If women didn't drink alcohol during pregnancy, there would never be another baby born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Data from the Center of Disease Control indicates that each year more than 40,000 American children are born with defects because their mothers drank alcohol excessively while she was pregnant. This number represents approximately 2 of every 1000 of all children born in this country. Alcohol exposure in utero is also the number one cause of mental retardation in the United States, and one of the three leading causes of birth defects (CDC,1996). "Alcohol produces more significant neurobehavioral effects in the fetus than other drug including cocaine, heroin and marijuana" (Bagheri, Burd, Martsolf, & Klug, 1997). These statements provide a basic overview of why I chose this topic. I have always been amazed and horrified by the disregard for the well-being of another human that a pregnant woman can display by drinking excessively. .
FAS is a medical diagnosis that refers to a specific cluster of anomalies associated with the use of alcohol during pregnancy. The term was coined in 1973 by Jones and Smith, two physicians who were working on the hypothesis that malnutrition in alcoholic women caused birth defects (Bagheri, Burd, Martsolf, & Klug, 1997). Later it was proven that this disease is caused by the teratogenic effects of the excessive ingestion of alcohol by pregnant women. .
The diagnosis of FAS is complicated due to the fact that there is an absence of a single biological marker specific to this disorder, and the unreliability of self-reports of maternal drinking. There are three essential components of FAS, many of which are seen in other childhood diseases (Broadwell & Saunders 1993). The first component is prenatal and/or postnatal growth retardation. Usually the child shows weight and/or length below the 10th percentile at birth, with persistent growth lag throughout childhood.