Information on FASD
What is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders?
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
is a permanent birth defect
syndrome caused by maternal consumption
of alcohol during pregnancy. The definition of the fetal alcohol spectrum
disorder has changed little since the 1970's when the condition was
first described and refined. The condition has been broadly characterized
by pre- and/or postnatal growth deficiency, a characteristic set of
minor facial anomalies, and evidence of prenatal alteration in brain
function such as microcephaly from birth, neurologic problems without
postnatal antecedents, or complex patterns of functional disability."
(Sterling K. Clarren, M.D. and Susan J. Astley, Ph.D., Diagnostic
Guide for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and Related Conditions, 1997)
FASD is the leading known-and the only 100 percent preventable
of mental retardation. (Fetal alcohol effects (FAE) is similar to
FASD, but without the physical symptoms. While it is often assumed
FAE is less severe than FASD, this is not the case.) The neurological
abnormalities, delays in development, intellectual impairments and
learning/behavior disabilities that accompany FAE are similar, and
sometimes more severe, than with FASD. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy
destroys growing and developing cells in the fetus, causing permanent
malformations to the brain.
Other symptoms can include:
- Low birth weight
- Impaired growth before and after birth
- Facial malformations
- Small head size
- Learning disabilities and lower IQ
- Hyperactivity and the inability to pay attention
- Sleeping problems
- Organ damage
diagnostic criteria indicate Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders:
prenatal and/or postnatal growth.
Permanent brain damage
in neurological abnormalities, delay in development, intellectual
impairment and learning/behavior disabilities.
Abnormal facial features
eye opening, short nose, flat midface, thin upper lip and small
Maternal alcohol use during pregnancy.
window of exposure for alcohol is the entire 9 months of pregnancy.
Whatever is developing, at the time of exposure to the fetus,
can be affected.
Ten Things You should know about FASD:
1. Drinking during pregnancy can cause permanent damage to a
2. FASD is one of the most common causes of mental retardation,
and is the only cause that is entirely preventable.
3. According to recent State of Alaska DHSS surveillance data,
more than 126 children are born at risk for FASD each year in
4. Prenatal exposure to alcohol can cause brain damage and other
permanent birth defects.
5. Obtaining an FASD diagnosis can improve an individual’s
ability to function in the world, and may reduce secondary disabilities
like depression and school failure.
6. FASD is found in all races and all socio-economic groups –
wherever women drink alcohol FASD exists.
7. There is no safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
8. Women should stop drinking prior to trying to conceive –
alcohol can cause damage to a developing fetus even before a woman
knows she is pregnant.
9. FASD is 100 percent preventable.
10. With the right diagnosis, support and understanding, many
individuals with FASD are living happy and full lives.