Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, or FASD, refers to a range of impairments that are caused by exposure to alcohol in utero. The effects include impaired growth, intellectual disabilities, vision problems and speech and language delays. FASD can also cause a cluster of facial features such as small eyes, a thin upper lip and a flat nose.
Risks Of Drinking During Pregnancy Weren’t Always Known
Most people today know that it’s not safe to drink during pregnancy. The risks are thoroughly researched and include miscarriage, preterm birth and stillbirth. There is no known safe amount of alcohol to drink while pregnant, which is why healthcare professionals recommend abstaining from alcohol entirely.
Unfortunately, the risks of drinking during pregnancy weren’t always well documented. Some women drank, not realizing they were affecting their babies for life.
One mother’s story is especially intriguing. She is eager to share her story so that others can learn from it and get the long-term help they need.
One Mother’s Story Of Living With A Child With FASD
Kathy Mitchell and her daughter Karli know all too well what FASD can do. Karli is 43-years-old but has the developmental age of a first grader. She was diagnosed at the age of 16 with FASD after receiving a series of wrong diagnoses that included cerebral palsy.
Kathy admits that alcohol was a normal part of her life growing up, and that by the age of 12, she had been drunk a handful of times. Her parents owned a restaurant, which didn’t help. It provided Kathy with alcohol, a place to drink and people to drink with.
Kathy had her first child at 17 and then got pregnant with Karli the next year. She said that people would tell her things like, “Drink a glass of red wine a day because it’s good for the baby’s blood.” Or: “If you want a big, fat baby, drink a beer a day.”
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Is Used For The First Time
In 1973, the same year Kathy had Karli, the University of Washington Medical School published a paper that pointed out the hazards of drinking in pregnancy. This was the first time that the term fetal alcohol syndrome / fetal alcohol spectrum disorder was used.
Unfortunately, Karli’s diagnosis came too late for intervention. Not knowing what drinking could do during pregnancy, Kathy continued the same habits in subsequent pregnancies. It wasn’t until a second child of hers died that she hit rock bottom, was admitted to a mental health facility and diagnosed with addiction. There, Kathy got the help she needed and turned her life around.
Today, Kathy is the vice president of the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Though there is no cure for FASD, early intervention can be beneficial. Unfortunately, few are trained in the diagnosis of the disease. The organization hopes to educate more people on the dangers of drinking during pregnancy, signs of FASD and where to go for intervention.
Like this story? Read more about moms struggling with addiction.
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