Pregnant with wineSocial scientists and epidemiologists warn of a growing number of babies being born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in coming years. They attribute the problem to several factors: increased consumption of alcohol, general unawareness of the dangers of drinking while pregnant, and the absence of unified global recognition of the disorder. The concern that FASD is on the rise is so extreme that an entire issue of the International Journal of Alcohol and Drug Research (IJADR) has been devoted to the disorder.

Drs. Svetlana Popova and Christina Chambers are guest editors of the special edition, which is completely open-access to allow parents, educators, lawmakers, and medical professionals around the world free access to the papers presented in the issue. Popova is a senior scientist for the Social and Epidemiological Research Department at the University of Toronto Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Canada. Chambers is director of the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists Collaborative Research Center, Pediatrics and Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of California, San Diego in the United States.

Alcohol Consumption

According to the co-editors, diagnosis of FASD is expected to rise in coming years as global alcohol consumption rises. Binge drinking is becoming more common, especially in young women, and many women around the globe simply do not know that alcohol consumption can damage the child they're carrying. On a worldwide basis, most pregnancies are unplanned so a woman often doesn't know to abstain from alcohol until well after conception.

General Unawareness

Public awareness campaigns promoting abstinence during pregnancy aren't universally available. Many women simply don't know that alcohol consumption can damage a developing fetus in ways that have life-long consequences. Fetal alcohol exposure can lead to damage to the baby's brain and nervous system in ways that lead to permanent problems with behavior, cognition, emotional development, and learning. Physical defects can affect every system of the body.

Absence of Unified Recognition

In some nations, the medical profession relies on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as reference for diagnosing and treating illnesses of every kind. In the US, insurance usually covers treatment for illnesses listed in the DSM but the latest edition (2013) mentions FASD only in the appendix, not as a recognized diagnosis. In the International Classification of Diseases, only fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is recognized, not the full spectrum of associated disorders.

By devoting an entire issue to the matter of FASD, the publisher of the IJADR hopes to spread awareness of the dangers of drinking while pregnant. The publisher and contributors consider the special edition to be an important tool for promoting improved methods of prevention and treatment for children and adults affected by the disorder and their caregivers.

Source: "Table of Contents." The International Journal of Alcohol and Drug Research 3.1 (2014). Web. Mar 27, 2014.