NEW STUDIES FOCUS ON FATHERS
It hasn’t been until the last two years that the focus has shifted to fathers in the study of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Traditionally, the accountability fell on the mother but now research has shown that the father has as much to do with FAS as the mother.
According to a published online article1 on the website Science Daily® FAS children suffer significant problems such as retarded intellect, stunted growth and nervous system abnormalities, social problems and isolation. Until now, fathers have not been proven to have a link to such disabilities.
The article, which was published in Animal Cells and Systems, states that researchers studied male mice that were exposed to various amounts of alcohol, while another group was only given saline, which is basically saltwater.
The mice were mated and the offspring examined only to find that many of the fetuses sired by males who were exposed to alcohol suffered abnormal organ and/or brain development. Meanwhile, the saline group were normal.
The difference with this research, however, is it revealed that abnormalities that can lead to FAS are predetermined at fertilization. In other words, it’s been found that alcohol consumption can affect male sperm just as it can a female while the offspring is developing.
The results can be birth defects, developmental issues, miscarriage, developmental difficulties and central nervous system problems.
HOW CAN A FATHER WHO IMBIBES MATTER?
The Science Daily article states that up until now, a father’s lifestyle choices have not seen any repercussions on their unborn children. However, it’s also been well documented that toxicants such as alcohol and other drugs can at the very least lower a man’s ability to produce sperm.
Either way, accountability in most cases continues to be placed squarely on the woman’s shoulders when a baby with FAS is born. And while doctors determine that there still is no way to detect FAS before a child is born, the guidelines have long since been in place that suggests mothers refrain from smoking, drinking and taking other drugs which might damage their unborn child.
As to fathers, more and more recent fertility and birth defect studies conclude that for men who plan to have kids should immediately cut back, or even stop their alcohol consumption. Some researchers even suggest that moderate weekly alcohol consumption can negatively alter or produce abnormal sperm. Other studies have gone on to prove that in addition to alcohol and drug consumption, diet and exercise plays a large part in FAS.
Simply put, it’s not just potential mothers who up until now have needed to clean up their act before having children. It’s fathers as well which can suggest not just the medical implications of either parent’s lifestyles, but of the potential bias of the medical profession as a whole.
THE POLITICS OF PARENTHOOD
Past FAS studies have not served the female or male sex well. Sure, it’s part and parcel that one needs to moderate their alcohol and/or drug consumption purely from a healthy lifestyle choice beyond just the notion of having children. However, while the entire focus of infertility and birth defects has been on women, men have inconveniently been sidestepped as not being part of this ailment.
Some might ask if this sidestepping is politically driven or is it another example of the medical profession’s short-sightedness? Either way, the biasness toward women in regard to FAS continues.
For example, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study conducted earlier this year revealed that more than 3.3 million women2, which is roughly one in every 10 pregnant women, are at risk for alcohol-exposed pregnancies.
The report’s language, however, was highlighted as saying that women shouldn’t drink unless they’re on birth control – a point which would eventually have the report labeled as sexist. It seemed to shame women for being sexually active and consuming alcohol.
The report also raised eyebrows because it didn’t mention men in either the press release or the report itself. Simply put, the CDC never mentioned3 the fact that a father’s drinking can also be linked to fetal alcohol syndrome and other developmental issues in a child.
Now that it has been established that men just as much as women can be the cause of FAS, an increasing number of experts agree that testing needs to be done on both parents. Either person’s drug and alcohol use can play a definitive role in the health of their offspring.
It’s not just the mom’s responsibility to stay healthy during pregnancy. It’s the dad’s responsibility, too, especially before conception.
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- Fathers drinking: Also responsible for fetal disorders, Science Daly. Retrieved 2016.
- Despite Risks, 1 in 10 Women Drink During Pregnancy, Huffington Post. Retrieved 2016.
- Vital Signs. Alcohol-Exposed Pregnancies – United States, 2011-2013, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved 2016.