Understanding Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) refers to a range of conditions that can occur in children whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. FASDs can cause physical, bevahioral, or learning problems. There are three categories of FASDs: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) involves atypical facial features, growth problems, and central nervous system damage, Alcohol Related Nuerodevelopmental Disorder (ARND) may involve intellectual, behavioral, or learning disabilities, and Alcohol Related Birth Defects (ARBD) may involve problems with the heart, kidney, bones, or hearing.1
Signs and symptoms of FASDs are:
- abnormal facial features, such as a smooth ridge between the nose and upper lip (called the philtrum)
- small head size
- shorter-than-average height
- low body weight
- poor coordination
- hyperactive behavior
- difficulty paying attention
- poor memory
- difficulty in school (especially with math)
- learning disabilities
- speech and language delays
- intellectual disability or delay
- poor reasoning and judgment skills
- sleep and sucking problems as a baby
- vision or hearing problems
- problems with the heart, kidneys, or bones2
FASDs are the leading cause of preventable developmental and phsyical disability in the United States. Currently there is no scientific evidence that shows exactly how much alcohol (beer, wine, liquor) will cause FASD. However, FASD can be prevented by not drinking any alcohol while pregnant.3
Fact Sheets and Frequently Asked Questions
- The Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Center for Excellence has a variety of fact sheets and brochures on FASDs.
- The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has a fact sheet on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, written in English and en español.
- American Academy of Family Physicians has an overview and diagnostic pictures.
- The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome provides education, advocacy, and other useful information for people with FASD or parents of children with FASD.
Advocacy and Social Connections
- To connect with other parents and families who also have a child with FASD contact the Family Support Network™ of North Carolina.
- The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome has support group information for parents of children with FASD.
- Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (2012). Retrieved on-line from http://www.fasdcenter.samhsa.gov/index.cfm
- Center for Disease Control (2012). Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/facts.html
- KidsHealth (2011). Fetal alcohol syndrome. Retrieved from http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/brain/fas.html#