Alcohol harms 10,000 children every year



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Alcohol consumption during pregnancy harms around 10,000 children every year. This makes fetal alcohol syndrome the most common non-genetic clinical picture in Germany. For this reason, the federal drug commissioner Mechthild Dychmanns is calling for a uniform preventive medical check-up program and new legal framework conditions.

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FASD) is the most frequently non-genetically diagnosed clinical picture of children in Germany. Recent evaluations indicate that around 10,000 children are affected every year, although the number of unreported cases is significantly higher. Statistically speaking, this is twice as much damage in children than in Down syndrome. Despite pregnancy, many women consume alcohol in large quantities, some of which is extremely harmful to the unborn child. Alcohol consumption during pregnancy is by no means rare. Twelve to fifteen percent of expectant mothers consume alcohol at least once a month. The toxin settles directly into the unborn child's bloodstream via the placenta. Even small amounts are sufficient to sustainably and permanently damage the child.

Mechthild Dyckmans, drug officer of the black and yellow federal government, therefore calls for fundamentally new standardization in medical checkups. The aim is to identify fetal alcohol syndrome early and more effectively. In addition, the drug commissioner wants to campaign for new binding guidelines for doctors. The President of the German Society for Social Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine calls for a "clear agenda" for this.

Early detection of FASD must be included in the prevention
Preventive care for pregnant women must be expanded to include early detection of FASD. Dyckmans said that a change in the law was necessary for this purpose. In addition, the expectant mothers should be offered consistent and effective help before the babies are harmed. The drug officer warned: "Alcohol must be taboo during pregnancy!" Because the damage and later impairments that the children suffer from it are massive. For example, children with an established FASD suffer damage to growth, cognitive ability, or hearing loss. Organic diseases such as a heart defect or brain damage are often also present. At a later age, the children suffer above all from reduced performance, reduced intelligence, behavioral problems, learning and sleep disorders. Many of the disabilities described only appear much later in adolescence or adulthood and cannot be determined after the birth of the child. These include, for example, poor concentration and striking social behavior. In school, the children stand out above all as "hyperactive" and poor learning behavior. Often, however, no connection can be made to alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

Standardization of FASD diagnostics
New standardization of diagnostics should help to make a diagnosis early. In addition, doctors are to be trained through diagnostic standards so that symptoms and abnormalities can be better recorded. Medical expertise is not yet widespread, Dyckmans said. The standards are intended to help children at an early stage. For this reason, the commissioner asked the medical associations to develop scientifically sound guidelines for Germany that are based on the latest research.

The President of the Society for Neuropediatrics, Prof. Dr. Florian Heinen currently sees no shortage of possibilities to carry out a differentiated diagnosis. However, a reorganization of procedures and resources can help to introduce standards in practices and clinics. Heinen pointed out that those affected later suffer from the syndrome. Those affected suffer socially from the disabilities. Targeted therapies could be initiated for new standards. Even small amounts of alcohol during pregnancy are considered to be harmful to health, since the alcohol cannot be broken down relatively quickly as in an adult body. The clear formula during pregnancy should be: The first glass is clearly too much! (sb, 14.12.2010)

Also read:
No alcohol during pregnancy
Pregnancy: No alcohol is required
No alcohol if you want children
Late treatment of alcohol addiction

Image: Sonja Gräber / pixelio.de

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