Alcohol is one substance that has been carefully studied, as far as its effects on pre-natal development, and the effects that pre-natal alcohol usage has on children as they develop. Pre-natal alcohol use may lead to a birth defect that is known as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). (Davies & Bledsoe, 2005, p.1370). The characteristics of a child with FAS include growth deficiency, facial anomalies and damage to the child’s central nervous system. (Davis & Bledsoe, 2005, p. 1371). FAS is the main cause of preventable retardation in the United States. (Davis & Bledsoe, 2005, p.1371).
The mechanism of alcohol damage to a developing fetus is through damaging the “architecture, neuronal migration and synaptogenesis of the developing central nervous system” (CNS). (Davis & Bledsoe, 2005, p.1372). The infants who are at the greatest risk of fetal alcohol syndrome are born to women who drink heavily on a regular basis during her first trimester. (Davis & Bledsoe, 2005, p.1372). The first month of pre-natal development is the most crucial and dangerous time for a woman to indulge in alcohol. (Davis & Bledsoe, 2005, p. 1372). Unfortunately, many women do not realize that they are pregnant during this developmental stage, so it is not unusual for women to drink alcohol unabated during this period.
The extent of the damage done to the fetus corresponds how heavily the mother drinks during pregnancy. Women who regularly drink two drinks per day tend to have babies with low birth weight and “mild” disability, while consuming four to six drinks per day produces babies with more FAS symptoms. (Davis & Bledsoe, 2005, p.1372). The full expression of FAS heavily corresponds with women who consume eight to ten drinks per day, at least during the first trimester. (Davis & Bledsoe, 2005, p.1372). It is estimated that 30% to 50% of the infants born to chronically alcoholic women experiences a “serious