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Dear Nancy, Thanks for inviting me to your wedding and for informing me of your intention to be part of the parenthood experience as soon as you get married. However, by the same token allow me to take the opportunity, as a friend, to warn you against the danger of consuming alcohol, which is a powerful teratogen, during prenatal period. As you may have already known, “teratogen is any environmental agent that causes damage during pregnancy”.

It may be alcohol, cigarette, cocaine, marijuana and so on. But of all the abused substances, alcohol produces by far the most serious neurobehavioral effects on the fetus according to the Institute of Medicine Report to Congress, 1996. p. 35. As such it attacks the nervous system of the fetus at any stage of the pregnancy. I find it even necessary to remind you that, as a pregnant woman drinks, the fetus drinks too, via the bloodstream.

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Connected to the mother and nourished by the umbilical cord, alcohol can enter the placenta where the fetus is being developed and prevent the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to the fetus. Due to the fact that its systems are not completely formed yet, the fetus is unable to breakdown alcohol. Consequently, the level of alcohol remains high in his blood, for a longer period of time than the mother. If the metabolism cannot be done properly, it may concentrate in his brain.

So, alcohol, as a sedative and a depressant, acts on his central nervous system, and put the fetus at risk of having a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Consequently Nancy, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) can be damaging for the fetus. It reduces the activity of the nervous system. It can even cause permanent brain damage: the brain can be reduced or parts of it can be damaged or missing. As a result, brain disorders can cause severe impairments. For example, the neurotransmitters, responsible for carrying messages to the rest of the body, can be slow down.

Moreover, all of these may result in impairments by FASD to include: mental retardation, learning disabilities, attention deficit, hyperactivity, language, memory, social skills and so forth… In fact Nancy, let’s say that these defects include physical, mental, behavioral and learning disabilities with possible implications for life. I am certain that you wish the best for your progenitors. So Nancy, I want to call your attention to the fact that no one is actually exempt from congenital disease. But every one needs to prevent his or her child to carry at birth the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, because it is a behavioral choice.

That is why, I beg you to begin abstaining yourself from drink right now. So that, by the time you will become pregnant, you would be free of this dependency. Don’t ever forget Nancy that the gift of life is the best gift a mother can give to her child. So, give him a healthy life, and he will not be a burden for life. Hoping that you will pay an undivided attention to the advices that proceed, I wish you all the best in your effort to build up a healthy family. Your friend, Michou (Luce-Josie Nicolas)

* Amy M. Schoenfeld. Edward P. Rileh. PH.D.,National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Pubs.niaaa,nih.gov/publications * Berk, Laura E., Infant and Children , Prenatal Through Middle Chilhood, seventd Edition, p. 102 * Buzzle.com/articles/is-alcohol-a-depressant.

* Sarah N Mattsoon, PH.D.,Teratogenic Effects of Alcohol on Brain and Behavior * Stratton,K,; Howe, C.; and Battaglia. F. 1996.Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: Diagnosis, Epidemiology, Prevention and Treatment.Washington, DC: Institute of Medicine, National Academy Press.http://books.nap.edu/htlm//fetal

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