Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

What is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a group of health problems that a child is born with. It can happen to any child whose mother drinks alcohol while she is pregnant. All types of alcohol can cause damage to your unborn baby. A child with FAS may have mental, behavior, or growth problems. His face may not look normal. His bones and body organs may not develop normally.

Is it safe to drink a small amount of alcohol during pregnancy?

There is no safe amount of alcohol to drink during pregnancy. The same amount of alcohol that you drink goes from your blood into your unborn child's blood. Caregivers cannot tell you how much or what kind of alcohol may be harmful or safe. This is because each baby is affected by alcohol in a different way. Even a small amount of alcohol increases the risk of birth defects in your baby. It is best not to drink alcohol at all during your pregnancy. If you drink alcohol, it is never too late to stop.

Can I drink alcohol while I am trying to get pregnant?

It is best to stop drinking now if you are trying to get pregnant. Often women do not know they are pregnant until they have pregnancy symptoms. Your unborn child may be 1 or 2 months along before you even know you are pregnant. Your unborn child's brain and body organs form during the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. If you are drinking alcohol during this time, you may cause your child to have FAS.

What are the signs of FAS?

  • Your child's growth may be slow while he is in the womb and after he is born.

  • The middle of your child's face may be slightly flat. He may have small eyes with extra skin at the inner corners of his eyes. These are called epicanthal folds. He may have a short, upturned nose. He may also have a thin upper lip.

  • Some of your unborn child's organs, such as his heart and kidneys, may not develop correctly. He may have vision or hearing problems. He may also have speech problems when he is older.

  • Your child's brain may not develop normally. He may have learning, thinking, and memory problems. He may also have long-term behavior problems, such as being too active or nervous. He may not be able to pay attention. He may have problems making and keeping friends.

How is FAS diagnosed?

Your caregiver will ask you about your alcohol use while you were pregnant. He will give your baby a physical exam. He will examine his physical features, growth, and health. Your baby may not be diagnosed with FAS until he is older. His caregiver may ask you about his behavior and his learning abilities. He may also examine his eyes and his hearing.

How is FAS treated?

There is no cure for FAS. Specially trained caregivers and learning programs can help your child with his learning and development needs. Ask your caregiver for more information about these resources.

How can FAS be prevented?

FAS is completely preventable. Do not drink alcohol while you are pregnant.

Where can I find support and more information?

  • National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
    900 17th St, NW, Ste 910
    Washington, DC , 20006
    Phone: 1- 202 - 785-4585
    Web Address: www.nofas.org
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs)
    CDC, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
    1600 Clifton Rd, Mailstop E-86,
    Atlanta , GA 30333
    Phone: 1- 800 - 232-4636
    Web Address: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fas

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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