Alcohol and infant born from drinking motherIf an infant is born to a drinking mother without any observable evidence of abnormal development, can we conclude that there was no detrimental impact...

Alcohol and infant born from drinking mother

If an infant is born to a drinking mother without any observable evidence of abnormal development, can we conclude that there was no detrimental impact of alcohol during thegestational period? can you explain

Expert Answers
booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't think you can ever draw such an unsubstantiated conclusion based on one incident. In my opinion, it may simply be a miracle. A study would have to be conducted with regard to the effects of alcohol on unborn babies from a much larger group of women.

For those who refer only to "heavy" drinking, I'm not sure what that means, exactly. Women who drink three to six drinks a week face an increase in getting breast cancer by 15%. Women who take two drinks a day raise their chances of getting breast cancer by 50%. And it doesn't matter if it's beer, wine or liquor. Personally, I don't drink a great deal, but two drinks a day does not sound like "heavy" drinking, but look at the risk to an adult female. How can we surmised that an unborn child would not be adversely affected in the developmental stages of pregnancy if grown women are affected? Babies are too fragile to take that risk as a mother. Children may not get hit by a car if they play ball in the street, but the likelihood is greater: we don't encourage them to do so...we ask them to play in the back yard.

Where a baby is concerned, err on the side of caution, and never assume that because one baby is ok if the mother drank during pregnancy that all babies will be. And beyond that, who can say with absolute certainty what the far-reaching effects will be for such a baby?

boblawrence eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Concern about maternal alcohol consumption began whith recognition of the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome(FAS), a series of infant abnormalities found in mothers who drank heavily during pregnancy.

Halmarks of FAS:

Substandard height/weight

Abnormal Facial Features:  Smooth philtrum (midline depression between upper lip and nose) and Small eye openings.

Mental/Intellectual issues:  Mental Retardation, brain damage

Neurologic problems

Functional disorders: Disability in learning, communication/language, intelect, concentration, behavioral issues.

Unfortunately, one cannot always immediately recognize subtle defects as outlined above, especially in mild cases of FAS in which the face appears normal.

This is the basis for recommending abstinence or near abstinence for pregnant women.  There is simply no way to predict or, after birth, clearly establish the degree of harm that maternal alcohol ingestion has done to the child.

On a positive note, however, it is known that all issues of FAS are dose-related.  The degree and frequency of maternal alcohol use are important.  For example, there is no medical reason whatsoever for a mother to beat herself up if she has an occasional glass of wine or cocktail during her pregnancy.

As with many things in life, moderation is the key.

vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Often problems in very young children do not become evident immediately. It would be very difficult, for instance, to test the IQ of a newborn child, and it would also be difficult to test in a newborn the kinds of developmental problems that might result from heavy drinking during a pregnancy. As tests (such as blood tests) become more sophisticated, subtle, and reliable in their ability to predict long-term developmental consequences, it may someday be possible to answer your question with a "yes." However, at this point I am inclined to answer it with a fairly strong "no."

marbar57 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would say that all effects from a drinking mother aren't apparent when the child is born.  Some effects are far-reaching and won't show up for years (like ADHD, dislexia, juvenile delinquency, diabetes, etc.)  And then, too, what might not hurt one child may be a detriment to another.  Even if something had a 50/50 chance of being harmful, is it worth the risk?  I wouldn't want to chance it, or live with the responsibility of having created a difficult lifelong situation for someone to have to live with just because I had to have a drink!

belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have a feeling that if a mother is an alcoholic and drinks heavily enough during pregnancy to risk damaging the fetus, she is not going to make any effort to make sure the child is unharmed. Many of the standards mentioned above require constant checkups, weight, temperature, all things that you would be measuring on a regular basis to make a diagnosis. It seems to me that we won't see alcohol damage until later in life because the mother will continue drinking, uncaring about the health of the child.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Child development as well as human development in terms of language, cognitive ability, emotional stability and socialization takes years. It might be very difficult to spot the "damage" caused by fetal exposure to alcohol until they are even in their teens. As the child encounters the growth spurt of the younger years, puberty and the hormones and chemical/physical/social adjustments that come with it take place, it might be easier to notice if there has been any adverse affects.
accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think #3 makes a very strong point. There are clear problems with researching the impact of alcohol poisoning on the foetus in the mother's womb until the child has reached a stage when such aspects as IQ and other developmental factors can be realisticly assessed and measured. From personal experience, I have friends who adopted three children whose mother was an alcoholic, and each of them have their own set of issues related to their mother's dependence on alcohol.

pacorz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the common effects of fetal alcohol syndrome is poor development of the frontal lobes of the brain. This brain area is important in impulse control and the ability to prediction the consequences of your own actions. These functions normally do not begin to become apparent until the age of two to three, and are not fully developed  until after puberty. Hence it may take many years to fully assess the harm done to a baby whose mother drank during her pregnancy.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree that one case, out of the countless, is not relevant. Many times, signs may not become apparent in the child until later in life. As an example, a person I know adopted an infant and saw no immediate signs of issues. It was not until later when the child lacked the verbal skills to communicate that the drinking and drug use of the biological mother became apparent.

Therefore, best not to assume.