Skip to main content

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

What is fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)?

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 harm an unborn baby. A child with FAS may have mental, behavioral, emotional, or developmental problems. He or she may also have growth or other physical problems, such as bone or organ development. FAS cannot be cured, but it can be prevented by not drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

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

No amount of alcohol is safe to drink during pregnancy. The same amount of alcohol that you drink goes from your blood into your unborn baby's blood. Even a small amount of alcohol increases your baby's risk for birth defects.

Is it safe to 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 baby may be 1 or 2 months along before you even know you are pregnant. A baby's brain and body organs form during the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. Alcohol during this time may cause FAS.

What are the signs of FAS?

  • Slow growth in the womb and after birth
  • Slightly flat middle of the face, small eyes with extra skin at the inner corners, a short, upturned nose, or a thin upper lip
  • Organs that do not develop correctly, such as the heart and kidneys
  • Vision, hearing, or speech problems
  • Brain development problems that cause learning, thinking, attention, and memory problems, or being too active or nervous

How is FAS diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask you about your alcohol use while you were pregnant. He or she will give your baby a physical exam. He or she will examine your baby's physical features, growth, eyes, and hearing. Providers may not know your baby has FAS until he or she is older. You may be asked later about his or her behavior and learning.

How is FAS treated?

FAS cannot be cured. Specially trained healthcare providers and programs can help your child with his or her learning and development needs. Ask your provider for more information about these resources.

Where can I find support and more information?

  • National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
    1200 Eton Court, NW, Third Floor
    Washington, DC , 20007
    Phone: 1- 202 - 785-4585
    Web Address:
  • 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:

When should I call my child's doctor?

  • You are having problems feeding your child and you feel he or she is not eating enough.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child is short of breath when he or she is lying down or during exercise or activities. Your child's lips and fingernails may also turn blue.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

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 healthcare providers 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.

© Copyright Merative 2022 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.