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Babies who are born alcoholics; health CHILDREN'S LIVES BEING RUINED BY MUMS-TO-BE ADDICTED TO BOOZE.

Byline: By JUDITH PHILLIPS

IT'S every parent's worst nightmare and more. Not only is your teenage daughter bulimic and anorexic, but she's also an alcoholic downing four litres of cider a day. In her early 20s, weighing less than six stone and in the grip of alcoholic addiction, she gets pregnant.

Her first child is born healthy, and a couple of years later, when her second son arrives, he's also normal. But her third child, also a boy, is born an alcoholic.

It's a scenario faced by one couple, who've now stepped in to care for their grandson. The gran, who must remain anonymous for legal reasons, said: "He weighed only three pounds and shortly after birth was suffering severe withdrawal symptoms, shaking and shivering and getting cramps.

"To make things worse our daughter rejected him. She wanted nothing to do with him because she'd wanted a girl.

"His father didn't want him either, and when our daughter became ill we had to step in and bring him up. It's a constant struggle because he's quite seriously mentally disabled and as he gets older he's exhibiting more and more difficult and weird behaviour."

The youngster from Conwy county, now aged eight, was diagnosed with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), which shows up in mental or physical problems - sometimes both.

The couple are members of FASaware, a support group for families affected by the syndrome, and are helping organise a workshop in Old Colwyn on March 27 where there will be talks from parents who are dealing with it and from specialists. FASD occurs when booze drunk by an alcoholic mum-to-be goes undiluted straight to the foetus.

The toxicity is normally released from an adult in hours, but in the baby it's absorbed by the internal organs where it can remain for days, causing damage to the brain and body.

"It was our health visitor who first noticed he wasn't meeting the developmental milestones, and she referred us to a paediatrician.

They did a series of tests and then when he was 19 months they told us he had FASD.

"Often FASD children have a high forehead, hooded eyes, and a very small pointed face - and that is true of him. His behaviour also matched what they were telling us but we didn't really realise at that point how difficult it would become," said the 64-year-old gran.

"He looks very cute, and if you met him in the street he would run up to you and give you a cuddle, but from the minute he gets up in the morning it's as though he's on speed. He doesn't stay still for a minute, he sings, dances, talks rubbish to himself, and has terrible temper tantrums, which are hard to control. He has no interest in food, and trying to persuade him to eat is a nightmare, he has to have vitamin and mineral supplements to try to keep him healthy.

"Trying to get him to go to bed is a struggle and he has to be sedated at night otherwise we wouldn't get any sleep."

At present the boy goes to a mainstream school but his behavioural and other problems means it's likely he will soon transfer to a special school.

"His life skills and ability to learn are those of a child of four.

At the moment he's popular at school but we're worried that if he goes to a mainstream secondary school his behaviour will make him stand out and he may be bullied," said the gran.

She and her husband are fighting to help others who are also facing the problems posed by FASD.

"The hardest part is to get a diagnosis, because often it can be confused with other conditions like hyperactivity or ADHD. There are people who can help but it's important to know how to get that help," said the grandad.

For more details of the Old Colwyn workshop on March 27 email fasawarewales@btinternet.com or call 01745 350124 or 0777 646824

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Booze drunk by an alcoholic mum-to-be goes undiluted straight to the foetus
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Mar 14, 2009
Words:682
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