Drinking Mums Cause Rise in Foetal Alcohol Cases

foetal alcohol syndrome and binge drinkingNew figures for England show that cases of foetal alcohol syndrome have tripled since health authorities started tracking the condition 16 years ago. This has many worried that English mothers are not getting enough information on the dangers of drinking while pregnant.  

In 2012-2013 252 people were diagnosed with the condition. That is compared with 89 people in 1997-1998.

Experts believe this increase is down to two factors. Improved testing and information allows doctors to catch more cases of foetal alcohol syndrome and more mothers are drinking during pregnancy.

Despite more people being diagnosed with the condition, experts believe that there are far more people suffering from foetal alcohol syndrome that will never be diagnosed or given help.

The World Health organisation estimates that around 1 in 100 people currently has foetal alcohol spectrum disorder which is the overarching term for the conditions surrounding foetal alcohol syndrome. This may be far lower than the real number though as studies in the US and Italy put foetal alcohol numbers at up to 5% of the population.

As Britain has the highest rate of binge drinking in Europe, its numbers are almost certainly higher than the 1% estimate by the WHO.

“Only 20% have the physical signs of this condition such as small, wide-set eye openings, flattened filtrum, thin upper lip, lower ears, different creases in the hands and there can be skeletal damage. Those are the physical things, but if you don't see them, then perhaps you don't ask the question," said Susan Fleisher, chief executive of the National Organisation for Foetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Many of the symptoms of foetal alcohol syndrome are invisible. Alcohol kills brain cells in developing foetuses, It also limits oxygen and nutrient uptake. This can cause learning difficulties and make it harder for sufferers to relate emotionally to peers.

NHS figures show that among women, more than half consume more than the recommended daily allowance of alcohol. Of the 50% who drink, 25% drink more than twice the recommended daily allowance.

This means that, until something is done, England could continue to see rising number of foetal alcohol syndrome babies. 

To learn more about alcohol abuse check out the Life Works Alcohol Knowledge Centre

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