Posts Tagged ‘fetal alcohol spectrum disorders’

Birth defects research changes lives

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

March of Dimes invests in birth defects research

Sick babyFor many years, March of Dimes grantees have been seeking to identify genes and environmental factors that cause or contribute to birth defects. For example, in 2015, there were 78 million dollars in active birth defects research grants.

Today is World Birth Defects Day

Understanding the causes of birth defects is a crucial first step towards developing effective ways to prevent or treat them. Some birth defects are caused by a mutation (change) in a single gene. In 1991, Stephen Warren, PhD, a March of Dimes grantee at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, identified the gene that causes fragile X syndrome, the most common inherited cause of intellectual disabilities.

Current grantees are seeking to identify genes that may play a role in other common birth defects, such as congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH). Others are working on identifying environmental exposures that can cause birth defects. In fact, did you know that in 1973, March of Dimes grantees were the first to link drinking alcohol during pregnancy to a specific pattern of birth defects and intellectual disabilities now known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders? By understanding the connection between alcohol and birth defects, pregnant moms are now able to have healthier pregnancies.

Many other birth defects appear to be caused by multiple genes and environmental factors, adding to the complexity of understanding their causes. March of Dimes grantees have discovered genes that contribute to heart defects and to cleft lip/palate, both of which are among the most common birth defects.

Please help us raise awareness of this serious global problem and advocate for more, surveillance, prevention, care and research to help babies and children. 

Join us on Twitter #WorldBDDay.

Share your stories and lend your support.

Is a glass of wine OK?

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

Contemplative womanThere is no amount of alcohol that is proven to be safe during pregnancy. All types of alcohol are equally harmful for your baby, including wine, beer, wine coolers and mixed drinks. When you drink, the same amount of alcohol that is in your blood is also in your baby’s blood. The alcohol in your blood quickly passes through the placenta and to your baby through the umbilical cord.

Alcohol can seriously harm your baby’s development. It can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) which include a wide range of physical and mental disabilities and lifelong emotional and behavioral problems in a child. It can also cause miscarriage, premature birth and stillbirth.

If you were drinking alcohol before you knew you were pregnant, the most important thing is that you completely stop drinking after learning of your pregnancy. The sooner you stop drinking, the better off you and your baby will be.

If you have been drinking alcohol during pregnancy, it is never too late to stop. Your baby’s brain is growing throughout pregnancy, so the sooner you stop drinking the safer it will be for your baby. If you are having trouble stopping, help is available. Talk to your doctor or find a professional in your area using the Substance Abuse and Treatment Facility Locator. Or, for more information about how to stop drinking, visit us here.

MargaritaSeptember 9th is International FASD Awareness Day, and this year, NOFAS (the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) is dedicating the month of September to raising awareness.

Help us get the word out: FASDs are completely preventable if a woman does not drink alcohol during pregnancy. Read about Taylor’s personal struggle with FASD here.

Remember, if you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, do not drink alcohol. And don’t smoke or take any drugs or medications without talking to your provider first. Be sure to get regular prenatal care and tell your health care provider about any concerns you may have.

Email or text us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org with your questions.

 

FASDs – what you need to know

Monday, April 6th, 2015

Alcohol Awareness MonthIt’s important to stop and think before you drink.

Many women who are pregnant or thinking about pregnancy know that heavy drinking during pregnancy can cause birth defects, but it’s important to note that even light drinking may also harm your developing baby. No level of alcohol use during pregnancy has been proven safe – none. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorders or FASDs, which include a wide range of physical and mental disabilities and lasting emotional and behavioral problems in a child.

What happens to your baby when you drink?

When you drink alcohol during pregnancy, so does your baby. The same amount of alcohol that is in your blood is also in your baby’s blood. The alcohol in your blood quickly passes through the placenta and to your baby through the umbilical cord. Although your body is able to manage alcohol in your blood, your baby’s little body isn’t. Your liver works hard to break down the alcohol in your blood. But your baby’s liver is too small to do the same and alcohol can hurt your baby’s development.

That’s why alcohol is much more harmful to your baby than to you during pregnancy.

What should you do?

The good news is that FASDs can be completely avoided. If you had an occasional drink before knowing you were pregnant, chances are it probably won’t harm your baby. But it’s very important that you stop drinking alcohol as soon as you think you might be pregnant.

Also, be sure to get regular prenatal care and tell your health care provider about any concerns you may have.

Bottom line: There is no safe amount of alcohol a pregnant woman can consume. Even a small amount can harm your baby.

April is alcohol Awareness Month – help us get the word out. Stop and think before you drink.

Birth Defects: What have we learned?

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

Birth defects prevention month CDC guest postSpecial thanks to Coleen Boyle, PhD, MSHyg, Director, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for today’s guest post.

Each January, in recognition of National Birth Defects Prevention Month, we at CDC strive to increase awareness about birth defects and reflect upon all that we have learned so far.  We know what causes some birth defects, such as Down syndrome and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. However, for many birth defects, the causes are unknown.

The good news is that, through research, we’ve learned a lot about what might increase or decrease the risk for birth defects. For example, we know that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause a baby to be born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Taking certain medications, having uncontrolled diabetes, and smoking cigarettes are all things that can increase the risk for birth defects. We also know that getting enough folic acid, a B vitamin, starting at least one month before getting pregnant and during early pregnancy lowers the risk of having a baby with a major birth defect of the brain or spine.

Each of these research findings represents a building block, a step toward healthy birth outcomes. Understanding the potential causes of birth defects can lead to recommendations and policies to help prevent them. A great example of this is the research on folic acid, which led to the recommendation that all women who can become pregnant should get 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. This important research also contributed to the evidence needed to add folic acid to foods such as enriched breads, pastas, rice and cereals.

These building blocks start to form our foundation for understanding birth defects and help us identify what we still need to study in the future. While we have a learned a lot, much work remains. We at CDC continue to study the causes of birth defects, look for ways to prevent them, and work to improve the lives of people living with these conditions and their families.

To learn more about birth defects research, we invite you to join us at 1PM EST on January 20, 2015 for CDC’s live webcast titled “Understanding the Causes of Major Birth Defects: Steps to Prevention.” Experts in birth defects research will present an overview of current and historical efforts to understand the causes of major birth defects. They will also discuss the challenges in turning research findings into effective prevention. For more information on the upcoming session, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/cdcgrandrounds/.

This year, we encourage you to become an active participant in National Birth Defects Prevention Month.  Post facts about birth defects marked by the hashtag #1in33 on social media or share your story and how birth defects affect you and your family. Join us in a nationwide effort to raise awareness of birth defects, their causes and their impact.

 

 

Alcohol during pregnancy and FASDs

Friday, September 7th, 2012

pregnant-bellySeptember 9 is International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) Awareness Day. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause FASDs, which include a wide range of physical and mental disabilities and lasting emotional and behavioral problems in a child.

When you drink alcohol during pregnancy, so does your baby. The same amount of alcohol that is in your blood is also in your baby’s blood. The alcohol in your blood quickly passes through the placenta and to your baby through the umbilical cord.

Although your body is able to manage alcohol in your blood, your baby’s little body isn’t. Your liver works hard to break down the alcohol in your blood. But your baby’s liver is too small to do the same and alcohol can hurt your baby’s development. That’s why alcohol is much more harmful to your baby than to you during pregnancy. No amount of alcohol (one glass of wine, a beer…) is proven safe to drink during pregnancy.

Alcohol can lead your baby to have serious health conditions, FASDs. The most serious of these is fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Fetal alcohol syndrome can seriously harm your baby’s development, both mentally and physically.  Alcohol can also cause your baby to:
• Have birth defects (heart, brain and other organs)
• Vision or hearing problems
• Be born too soon (preterm)
• Be born at low birthweight
• Have learning disabilities (including intellectual disabilities)
• Have sleeping and sucking problems
• Have speech and language delays
• Have behavioral problems

In order to continue raising awareness about alcohol use during pregnancy and FASDs, the CDC has posted a feature telling one woman’s story and her challenges with her son who has FASD. It’s an eye opener. The CDC’s FASD website has lots more information, too.

What about that glass of wine?

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

wineThere’s a hot discussion on Twitter right now about whether or not it’s OK to have a glass of wine when you’re pregnant. Our friend @ResourcefulMom decided to “open that can of worms” and we’re glad she did.

Let’s start by stating the facts: There is no known safe amount of alcohol a woman can drink during pregnancy. Period. We say it. ACOG (the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists) says it. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) says it.

Although many women are aware that heavy drinking during pregnancy can cause birth defects like fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), many do not realize that moderate or even light drinking also may harm a developing baby. An interesting article in TIME last fall   referenced a recent study that made several noteworthy points about the varying degrees to which alcohol can affect a baby.

If you’re drinking, so is your baby. When a pregnant woman drinks, alcohol passes through the placenta to her fetus. In the fetus’s immature body, alcohol is broken down much more slowly than in an adult’s body. As a result, Mom may feel fine but the alcohol level of the baby’s blood can be higher and remain elevated longer than the level in the mother’s blood. This sometimes causes the baby to suffer lifelong damage.

Binging is a big problem in this country. About 1 in 30 pregnant women report binge drinking (four or more drinks on any one occasion). Women who binge drink or drink heavily greatly increase the risk of alcohol-related damage to their babies. A 2008 Danish study found that women who binge drink three or more times during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy had a 56 percent greater risk for stillbirth than women who did not binge drink. Another 2008 study found that women who had five or more drinks a week were 70 percent more likely to have a stillborn baby than non-drinking women. Those are horrible numbers!

Yes, but you don’t binge drink. So what if your doc says one glass is OK? Well, what does he mean? How much is in one glass?  Have you seen the shapes and sizes of wine glasses lately? Some are small and look like a juice glass, others are enormous. Do you fill it half-full or all the way? If your doc specified, would you actually know what 4 ounces looks like in your glass?  The fact of the matter is that in this country where everything is super-sized we’re more than likely knocking back a great deal more than we think.

The March of Dimes recommends that pregnant women do not drink any alcohol, including beer, wine, wine coolers and liquor, throughout their pregnancy and while nursing. And, because we often don’t know when we conceive, women who may be pregnant or those who want to become pregnant also should not drink alcohol. Our point is that if science doesn’t know if something is safe, considering what’s at stake, why would you risk it?   It seems best to stick with mocktails and other non-alcoholic beverages.