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Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs)
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) are a group of conditions that can occur in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These effects can include physical problems and problems with behavior and learning. Often, a person with an FASD has a mix of these problems.
Cause and Prevention
- FASDs are caused by a woman drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Alcohol in the mother’s blood passes to the baby through the umbilical cord. When a woman drinks alcohol, so does her baby.

- To prevent FASDs, a woman should not drink alcohol while she is pregnant, or when she might get pregnant. This is because a woman could get pregnant and not know for up to 4 to 6 weeks. In the United States, nearly half of pregnancies are unplanned.

- If a woman is drinking alcohol during pregnancy, it is never too late to stop drinking. Because brain growth takes place throughout pregnancy, the sooner a woman stops drinking the safer it will be for her and her baby. Resources are available here

FASDs are Completely Preventable if a Woman Does not Drink Alcohol During Pregnancy—So Why Take the Risk?

American Academy of Pediatrics Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Prevention PSA

Why Alcohol Use During Pregnancy is Dangerous
Alcohol in the mother's blood passes to the baby through the umbilical cord. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and a range of lifelong physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities. These disabilities are known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). Children with FASDs might have the following characteristics and behaviors:
    - Abnormal facial features, such as a smooth ridge between the nose and upper lip (this ridge is called the philtrum)
    - Small head size
    - Shorter-than-average height
    - Low body weight
    - Poor coordination
    - Hyperactive behavior
    - Difficulty with attention
    - Poor memory
    - Difficulty in school (especially with math)
    - Learning disabilities
    - Speech and language delays
    - Intellectual disability or low IQ
    - Poor reasoning and judgment skills
    - Sleep and sucking problems as a baby
    - Vision or hearing problems
    - Problems with the heart, kidney, or bones
How Much Alcohol is Dangerous?
There is no known safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy or when trying to get pregnant. There is also no safe time to drink during pregnancy. Alcohol can cause problems for a developing baby throughout pregnancy, including before a woman knows she’s pregnant. All types of alcohol are equally harmful, including all wines and beer.
When Alcohol is Dangerous?
There is no safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy. Alcohol can cause problems for the developing baby throughout pregnancy, including before a woman knows she is pregnant. Drinking alcohol in the first three months of pregnancy can cause the baby to have abnormal facial features. Growth and central nervous system problems (e.g., low birthweight, behavioral problems) can occur from drinking alcohol anytime during pregnancy. The baby’s brain is developing throughout pregnancy and can be affected by exposure to alcohol at any time.
Get Help!

- If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant and cannot stop drinking, get help! Contact your healthcare provider, local Alcoholics Anonymous, or local alcohol treatment center.





CDC FASD Widget. Flash Player 9 is required.
CDC FASD Widget.
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- If you or your doctor think there could be a problem, ask for a referral to a specialist (someone who knows about FASDs), such as a developmental pediatrician, child psychologist, or clinical geneticist.
To find doctors and clinics in your area visit the National and State Resource Directory from the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS).

*Source for material The Center For Disease Control (CDC)


Free Materials: The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has FREE brochures, posters, fact sheets, training guides, and other educational materials.

More Information: Center for Disease Control (CDC) - Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs)

American Academy of Pediatrics: The Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Toolkit.

Not a Single Drop: Ohio's FASD Initiative

National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) is the leading voice and resource of the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) community.

Patterns and Alcohol-Related Birth Defects from NIH National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.


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Content last reviewed 9/29/2014 – Page last updated 9/29/2014