Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

16217467_mSeptember 9 is International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Awareness Day. FASDs are a wide range of disorders caused by exposure to alcohol in the womb, and the most severe can be fatal. FASDs can be prevented by abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy, but the greatest risk is during the first three months of pregnancy, a time when a large portion of mothers do not know they are pregnant.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is the most extreme of FASDs. It can be fatal. Babies who survive FAS can suffer the following consequences:

  • Central nervous system (CNS) problems
  • Growth problems
  • Abnormal facial features
  • Learning disabilities
  • Memory problems
  • Poor attention span
  • Communication problems
  • Hearing problems
  • Vision problems

Alcohol-related neurodevelopment disorder (ARND) can result in:

  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Learning disabilities
  • Behavioral problems

Alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD) can affect:

  • Heart
  • Kidneys
  • Bones
  • Hearing

Preventing FASDs

FASDs can be prevented. When a mother drinks during pregnancy, the alcohol passes to the baby through the umbilical cord. If a mother does not drink during pregnancy, there is no risk of FASDs. Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant should refrain from drinking alcohol.

However, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned. Since the greatest risk of FASDs occurs very early in pregnancy, a time when women typically do not know they are pregnant, it is also recommended that women who are sexually active and not using any form of contraceptive also abstain.

It is important for expecting mothers to know that the risk continues throughout pregnancy. If you discover that you are pregnant, and you have been drinking, you should stop right away.

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