Symptom: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

    Although the dangers of alcohol during pregnancy had long been suspected, fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) was formally described in 1968 by P. Lemoine and colleagues from Nantes (France) in 127 children of alcoholic parents. Their report in a French pediatric journal drew little attention. Focus on FAS only came after it was independently redescribed in 1973 by K.L. Jones and colleagues from Seattle (U.S.) in eight children of mothers with chronic alcoholism. Their report in the British medical journal The Lancet triggered an avalanche of reports of FAS. Alcohol is capable of causing birth defects. This capability classifies it medically as a teratogen. Alcohol is now recognized as the leading teratogen to which the fetus is likely to be exposed. This applies only to societies in which alcoholic beverages are consumed. In these populations, prenatal alcohol exposure is thought to be the most common cause of mental retardation. In fact, according to research published in Pediatrics, alcohol use among women of childbearing age (18-44 years) "constitutes a leading, preventable cause of birth defects and developmental disabilities in the U.S."

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