What are Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Effect?
Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a medical condition in an individual that occurs when a pregnant woman drinks alcohol. Children with FAS have all three of the following characteristics:
- Special facial characteristics
- Small for age, in height and weight
- Brain and central nervous system injury/damage
Children with a related condition, fetal alcohol effect (FAE), have also been affected by alcohol, but will not have all three of the above characteristics. With FAE, it is important to know the mother’s history of alcohol use. The damage to the developing brain by alcohol exposure can cause a wide variety of symptoms. Some of these are:
- Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Learning disabilities
- Difficulty with time, money, and numbers
- Inability to make "wise" decisions and choices
- Problems with daily living skills
- Overtly friendly—everyone is their friend
- Not afraid of things—will climb the highest slide
- Does not learn from mistakes
- IQ’s ranging from mental retardation to high on the scale
- Difficulty in school, trouble with the law, hard time holding down a job
- Unable to see consequences and understand them
The list goes on and on. And each individual affected by fetal alcohol exposure is unique.
Facts and Thoughts:
- There is no known safe level of alcohol during pregnancy.
- The sooner a woman quits drinking, the better it will be for both her and her baby.
- Children do not outgrow the effects of alcohol.
- It can be difficult for many women to quit drinking during pregnancy. It’s okay to ask for help.
- With support from others, women can make the choice not to drink.
- How big of a problem is FAS:
FAS is the leading cause of mental retardation in the United States and in Minnesota. It occurs three times more often than Down Syndrome and it is totally preventable. Minnesota has a high rate of drinking among girls and young women. This is a concern because women who start drinking early or drink expensively may be unable to quit when they become pregnant. Minnesota is fourth in the nation for high rates of women of childbearing age drinking alcohol.
- How much alcohol is safe for a pregnant woman to drink?
No level of alcohol during pregnancy can be considered safe. Since there is no research indicating a safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, the U.S. Surgeon General has recommended no alcohol during pregnancy. It is the safest choice.
- If a woman is drinking during pregnancy, should she quit?
Yes. When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, the alcohol deprives the baby of energy sources and materials needed for growth. Any woman who has been drinking during her pregnancy should quit drinking. The sooner she is able to quit drinking, the better it will be for both her and her baby. Partners of pregnant women can help by discouraging alcoholic use.
Other valuable links and sites:
We strongly encourage you to check out MOFAS’ site for further links and information on FAS/FAE.