Alcohol & Fetal White Matter, Steroids and Prematurity & Fetal DNA Testing 1
Drinking While Pregnant Damages Fetal Brain White Matter
We all know that drinking and pregnancy don't mix. We generally contend that a glass of wine with a meal is fine but getting buzzed or drinking heavily is a huge no- no. It is so dangerous that most doctors and health care professionals simply make a blanket statement to err on the side of caution and avoid all alcohol while pregnant.
A study published online on Dec. 19 and in the March print issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research found that prenatal alcohol exposure is associated with altered white-matter integrity. According to the washingtonpost.com"The brain's white matter is made up of nerve bundles that transfer information between brain regions," study corresponding author Susanna L. Fryer, a researcher at San Diego State University's Center for Behavioral Teratology, said in a news release.
"Optimal white-matter integrity is thought to support efficient cognition. So, the finding that prenatal alcohol exposure is associated with altered white-matter integrity may help explain aspects of the cognitive and behavioral problems that individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) commonly face," she said.
"The brains of individuals with FASDs showed evidence of altered nerve fiber integrity at a microstructural level, even though total brain size was statistically equivalent between alcohol-exposed and comparison participants," Fryer said.
Women at risk for premature births only need one round of steroid shots, study finds.
Thousands of women at high risk for preterm birth receive steroid shots which speed fetal blood vessel and lung development. This can help prevent breathing problems, brain bleeds and even newborn death.
According to Reuters.uk:"..a study of 1,858 women in 20 countries, published in the Lancet medical journal on Thursday, showed that additional injections every 14 days did not improve the health of the babies and actually resulted in smaller babies.
'The key findings from our study were that there was no benefit (from the repeated courses of injections) and therefore that repeated doses should not be used,' Dr. Kellie Murphy of the University of Toronto and Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, who led the study, said in a telephone interview."
U.S. Government and Baylor in cahoots to test fetal DNA
Baylor College of Medicine is offering a service to test fetal DNA for about 200 rare genetic syndromes, most involving mental retardation. There is no treatment for these conditions in utero and no treatment available after birth. The idea behind the screening then, is to allow the parents the option of terminating the pregnancy as 80-95% of expectant parents do when faced with a Down's Syndrome diagnosis in utero.
The implications are heartbreaking and of course we at A Much Better Way are appalled that anyone could terminate a Down's baby because they are of course as important and wonderful as everyone else. In addition to the ethical, eugenics side of the coin, we have to wonder if why the U.S. Government would sponsor such a study? We believe it is in an effort to collect fetal DNA (not because they are suddenly concerned with the incidence of these 200 rare syndromes.) Perhaps the current DNA collection via newborn PKU testing is not working out for them.
In 1968 French medical researchers identified a collection of abnormalities in children born to alcoholic mothers. These abnormalities came to be known collectively as the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). The defects associated with FAS are caused when alcohol drunk by the mother crosses the placenta, enters the unborn child's bloodstream, and interferes with normal biological development.
Most FAS babies have distinct facial features. They usually have small heads, with small eyes, very thin upper lips, low, sunken nasal bridges, and flattened cheekbones. In addition to their distinctive facial features, FAS babies suffer a variety of other physical defects. They generally show growth retardation. They are shorter and lighter in weight, on average, than non-FAS babies. This growth lag tends to persist into childhood. FAS babies often have deformities in their bones and joints and may have certain heart defects. Motor coordination tends to be poor, also. The most devastating problems, however, center on their intellectual development.
The developing brain is especially sensitive to alcohol. Prenatal exposure to alcohol appears to cause faulty arrangement of brain cells. Hence, FAS babies have reduced potential for developing their thinking and reasoning. By the time they reach school age, FAS babies typically show signs of mental retardation. Throughout childhood they will have poor attention spans and impaired learning skills.
In addition to their many intellectual problems, FAS children have a range of behavioral problems. They tend to be restless, irritable, and aggressive. They are likely to have poor impulse control. Because they have difficulty interpreting and responding to social cues, FAS children often have few friends.
Today we know that a mother does not have to be an alcoholic to give birth to a child who shows signs of FAS. A mother's consistent use of alcohol, even small amounts, throughout pregnancy can produce adverse effects on the unborn child. Occasional binge drinking during pregnancy can also have profound effects.
It is estimated that 1 infant in 750 suffers from FAS. Perhaps another 10 infants suffer from Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE). FAE refers to a condition that is somewhat less severe than FAS. The child with FAE does not show all the signs of full-blown FAS, but shares many of the same developmental defects. For example, children with FAE typically have intellectual impairments and behavioral problems that continue throughout childhood and beyond.
How much alcohol can a woman safely consume when she is pregnant? Occasionally a physician will tell a woman that a drink of wine now and then will not hurt her unborn child. However, the fact of the matter is, no one knows for sure how much alcohol is needed to harm the unborn child. The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome has stated that "no amount of alcohol has been proven safe to consume during pregnancy". The best advice for women, who are pregnant, or planning on becoming pregnant,is to abstain from all drinking. By following this advice, the wide range of birth defects associated with FAS and FAE can be prevented.
Author: Douglas Hardwick
About the author: Douglas Hardwick, Ph.D., has extensive interests in issues of holistic health and human development. He is a primary contributor to the information website: Holistic Health and Healing Resources.
Image Source: http://flickr.com/photos/emurray/210421689/