The Developing Baby
at five weeks:
fetus is approximately 1/2 inch long. The eyes, nose, and
mouth are beginning to show. Human growth takes place from
the head downward. Therefore, the head develops much more
rapidly than the rest of the body; however, it also take
more time to develop because of its complexity. Development
of the head will continue long after birth. The arms and
legs are extremely short at this time, but the hands and
feet are starting to take shape, and the fingers are starting
to form, but are still very webbed.
at six and a
The iris and pupil are developing,
but the eyelid has not yet formed. As the eye (a
complex system of muscles and nerves) takes several
weeks to develop, exposure to alcohol can result
in a number of muscle and vision problems.
at Eight weeks:
1-1/2 inch long fetus still has a great deal of development
ahead. The brain develops throughout gestation. Any time
a woman drinks, it can influence how her baby's brain develops.
If alcohol is present in the mother's body, it will cross
the placenta into the fetus's body. While waiting for the
alcohol to go back to the mother's body for processing,
the fetus will excrete the alcohol into the amniotic fluid
and re-ingest it many times. The blood alcohol content
of the fetus will be the same as the mothers - for at least
twice as long!
at Eleven weeks:
fingers are forming. Alcohol can impact the development
of the joints and the placement of the fingers on the
hand. Cocaine is a vasoconstrictor, so if the blood is
unable to flow properly to the fingers, they will not
obtain normal length. In some case, when a pregnant woman
uses cocaine, the 3rd section of a finger may not form
at Thirteen weeks:
eye is well developed and the lids close for several months,
and the nose is short in comparison to a newborn (much
of the additional growth in length occurs after birth).
A picture of the fetus at this point would show how alcohol
slows facial development resulting in typical FASD characteristics.
at Seventeen weeks:
fingers and fingernails are formed, as are the creases
in the palm of the hand, normally formed by the fetus
opening and closing the hand repeatedly. A drunk fetus
won't move as often, and this contributes to the creases
not forming properly.
Anytime after implantation
of the blastocyst
, when a woman drinks alcohol,
it crosses the placenta into the baby's body and has
the potential to damage whatever is developing at the
time in the fetus. The amount of damage depends on
many factors. However, alcohol is a teratogen more
damaging to the fetus than crack cocaine, than heroin,
than marijuana. Women want to be good mothers. They
want to give birth to healthy babies, even if giving
the baby up for adoption. No woman purposely drinks
in order to intentionally give birth to a child with
brain damage! An integral part of the disease of alcoholism
is denial. If a woman is pregnant and drinking, she
needs help and support. Anytime a woman stops drinking
during pregnancy, her baby will be healthier than if
she continues consuming alcohol.
Colin Rose, Accelerated Learning, Bantam Doubleday, Dell Publishing Group,
Ann Streissguth, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome:
A Guide for Families and Communities, Paul H. Brookes Publishing
Co., Baltimore, MD, 1997.
Robin Karr-Morse and Meredith S.
Wiley, Ghosts from the Nursery: Tracing the Roots of Violence,
The Atlantic Monthly Press, New York, NY, 1997.
Developed by Deb Evensen, Deb Matthews