Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a term that describes a variety of physical and mental birth defects that are caused by alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, there is no “safe” level of alcohol consumption while a woman is pregnant. Even the slightest amount of alcoholic substance can seriously damage the development of the unborn child both physically and cognitively. This condition is associated with mental retardation, behavioral maladjustments, central nervous system and organ dysfunction, abnormal facial features (small eye openings, thin upper lip, flat cheekbones, underdeveloped jaw structure, etc.), and growth deficiencies. These effects are typically permanent. Fetal Alcohol Effect (FAE) is a less severe version of the condition described above.

If a woman consumes beer, liquor, or wine while pregnant, the fetus may develop a form of FAS or FAE. While there is no cure or treatment for FAS and FAE, the potential damage is 100% preventable simply by abstaining from alcohol use while pregnant and/or breastfeeding. According to research findings, about 1 out of 750 newborns suffer from FAS; all races and socioeconomic groups are at equal risk. Not only are the physical, mental, and emotional effects of FAS/FAE irreversible, but the financial burden is considerable:  institutional and medical costs for one child with FAS add up to about $1.4 million over a lifetime. Alcohol use seems to be the most detrimental during the first three months of gestation.

What can you do to protect you and your baby from FAS/FAE?

If you are pregnant, attempting to get pregnant, or breast-feeding, do not drink any type or amount of alcohol, no matter how insignificant it may seem. If you just found out you are pregnant and drank alcohol prior to discovering your pregnancy, talk with your medical practitioner as soon as possible about potential options. If you currently consume alcoholic beverages and are at risk of becoming pregnant, you must be acutely aware and conscious of early pregnancy symptoms. Remember, whichever substances enter the mother’s body enter the baby’s as well. Don't take any chances with your child's life!

Last Updated 30 January 2012.