Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) belongs to a group of health problems called fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). It happens when a woman drinks alcohol during pregnancy. The alcohol can cause birth and growth defects in the baby. These defects make up FAS.
Alcohol can cross from the mother's blood to the baby's blood. Even a small amount of any type can harm a growing baby.
Blood Traveling Through Mother's Placenta to Baby
Alcohol travels through this path and affects the baby's development, particularly the heart and brain.
The doctor will ask about your alcohol intake 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
Women should not drink 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: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/DrinkingPregnancy_HTML/pregnancy.htm. Accessed November 4, 2020.
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/fetal-alcohol-spectrum-disorder. Accessed November 4, 2020.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Kari Kassir, MD
Last Updated: 5/7/2021
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