Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
(Alcohol in Pregnancy; Drinking Alcohol During Pregnancy; FAS)
Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) happens when a person drinks alcohol during pregnancy. The alcohol can cause birth and growth defects in the baby. FAS belongs to a group of health problems called fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).
Alcohol can cross from the pregnant person's blood to the baby's blood. Even a small amount of any type can harm a growing baby.
Alcohol travels through this path and affects the baby's development, particularly the heart and brain.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.http://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=71377137baby_fetus_placenta.jpgbaby fetus placentaNULLjpgbaby fetus placentaNULL\\hgfiler01a\intellect\images\baby_fetus_placenta.jpgNULL92NULL2008-06-043774007137_11869Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
Things that raise a baby's chance of FAS are:
- Unplanned pregnancy or drinking when a person does not yet know they are pregnant
- Alcohol use disorder in the mother
Birth and growth problems depend on when the exposure happened and how much was consumed.
Babies with FAS may have:
- Low birth weight
- Small size and slowed growth
- Small head
- Small eyes
- Short, flat nose
- Flat cheeks
- Small jaws
- Misshapen ears
- Thin upper lip
- Sight and hearing problems
As the infant grows, other symptoms may happen, such as:
- Problems eating and sleeping
- Delayed speech
- Learning problems
- Poor coordination
- Behavior problems
- Lack of impulse control
- Problems getting along with other children
Children do not outgrow these problems. Teens and adults often have:
The doctor will ask about alcohol use while pregnant. You will also be asked about your child's symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.
There is no cure. The goal is to manage symptoms. Choices are:
- Social services to teach parents how to care for and support a child with special needs
- Special education services to help with learning
The risk of this problem can be lowered by not drinking alcohol while pregnant or trying to become pregnant.
- Cook JL, Green CR, et al; Canada Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Research Network. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder: a guideline for diagnosis across the lifespan. CMAJ. 2016 Feb 16;188(3):191-197.
- Drinking and your pregnancy. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website. Available at: https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-and-your-pregnancy. .
- Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/fetal-alcohol-spectrum-disorder.
- Kari Kuenn, MD
(C) Copyright 2022 EBSCO Information Services
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.