Information on the Chemistry of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

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The chemistry of fetal alcohol syndrome has to do with women who drink when pregnant. Find out information about the chemistry of fetal alcohol syndrome with help from an experienced chemistry professional in this free video clip.

Part of the Video Series: Chemistry & Biology Concepts
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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Robin Higgins and this is information on the chemistry of fetal alcohol syndrome. Alright, so fetal alcohol syndrome is a really sad syndrome and it basically describes the negative effects that happen when a pregnant woman drinks alcohol. And so, let's go into some of the chemical effects. So, first of all, the structure of ethanol or the alcohol you're drinking is like this. And so, you have two carbons and you have an alcohol group, an OH group on the end. And remember that your blood is made mostly of water, of H-two-O (H2O). And so, these two chemicals are completely miscible. What that means is that they completely mix and they'll form one solution and they won't separate at all. So, this is an example, if you have you know, two layers of water and oil, they'll always stay like this. Water and oil are not miscible. But if you have water and on the top you have ethanol. Then over time they'll completely mix and there'll be no layers. So, if you've ever you know poured yourself a drink and added any kind of soda or water based substance to it. You know, you can notice that those things mix completely. And this is really a problem when you have pregnant drinking because what this miscibility means, is that ethanol gets into the blood stream and it has no problem doing this. And so, once you have this happen, once ethanol is in the bloodstream of a pregnant woman. There's a number of negative side effects. And so, the first one is that they can actually have less nutrition through the placenta and you can have less oxygen. So, if you ever you know, drink a lot of alcohol, you'll notice that you aren't thinking clearly. And so because oxygen is not getting to your brain at the rate that it needs to. And the same thing will happen if you're pregnant. You're really restricting the oxygen that gets to your baby. And so what that means is that there's not enough oxygen for the baby to develop correctly. And so, you know, every step of your pregnancy needs very certain levels of chemicals. And if you have less oxygen than you need, you're not going to be able to complete these steps to have the baby grow healthily. Another thing is that ethanol can actually encourage the reaction of acetaldehyde. And so what this is, is a chemical just like this. And ethanol, you can see it's very closely related. If it gets oxidized, it becomes acetaldehyde. And this is actually just a toxin and so, in general it's going to be really bad for you or for an unborn baby. Fetal alcohol syndrome is obviously very sad and upsetting and that's why it's recommended by all doctors never to drink when you're pregnant. And this is basically because of the miscibility and then, the various effects that ethanol has on the body. I'm Robin Higgins and this is information on the chemistry of fetal alcohol syndrome.


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