Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can result in a number of physical, neurological and mental conditions that range in severity. These fall under the term “Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD),” the most known of which are Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE). Fetal Alcohol Effects can also be separated into two different categories: Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND) and Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD).
What is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is one of the most common causes of mental retardation and is the only one that is 100% preventable. The effects are irreversible and last a lifetime.
The effects of FAS include mental retardation, malformations of the skeletal system and major organ systems (specifically the heart and brain), inhibited growth, central nervous system complications, poor motor skills, mortality, and difficulty with learning, memory, social interaction, attention span, problem solving, speech and/or hearing.
There are also facial features that are characteristic of babies with FAS. These include small eyes, short or upturned nose, flat cheeks, and thin lips. These features fade as the child grows up, but the child still has to cope with numerous other difficulties.
What are Fetal Alcohol Effects?
The two categories for Fetal Alcohol Effects are Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND) and Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD):
ARND describes the mental and behavioral impairments such as learning disabilities, poor school performance, poor impulse control, and problems with memory, attention and/or judgment.
ARBD describes the malformations of the skeletal system and major organ systems such as the heart, kidneys, bones, and/or auditory system.
How is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome different from Fetal Alcohol Effects?
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a result of high doses of alcohol consumption during pregnancy such as binge drinking and/or drinking on a regular basis. Fetal Alcohol Effects are a result of moderate drinking throughout pregnancy. The results of both FAS and FAE are irreversible and lifelong.
Is any amount of alcohol safe to drink?
There is no amount of alcohol that is safe to consume during pregnancy, but the more alcohol that is consumed, the greater the risk to your developing baby.
How can I prevent FAS and FAE?
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Effects are 100% preventable for a woman who completely abstains from alcohol during pregnancy. Therefore, if you are aware that you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or think you could be pregnant, you should not consume any amount of alcohol.
For more information on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, contact the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome at 1-800-66-NOFAS (666-6327) or contact The SAMHSA FASD Center for Excellence at 1-866-786-7327
Compiled using information from the following sources:
National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, http://nofas.org/
The Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Center for Excellence, http://www.fascenter.samhsa.gov/