Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a pattern of mental and physical defects,
which develops, in some unborn babies when the mother drinks too much alcohol
during pregnancy. A baby born with
FAS may be seriously handicapped and require a lifetime of special care.
Some babies with alcohol-related birth defects, including smaller body
size, lower birth weight, and other impairments, do not have all the classic FAS
symptoms. These symptoms are
sometimes referred to as Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE).
Researchers do not all agree on the precise distinctions between FAS and
Cause of the Problem:
Alcohol in a pregnant womanís bloodstream circulates to the fetus by crossing
the placenta. There, the alcohol
interferes with the ability of the fetus to receive sufficient oxygen and
nourishment for normal cell development in the brain and other body organs.
Possible FAS Symptoms:
Growth deficiencies: small
body size and weight; slower than normal development and failure to catch
deformed ribs and sternum; curved spine; hip dislocations; bent,
fused, webbed, or missing fingers or toes; limited movement of joints; small
Facial abnormalities: small
eye openings; skin webbing; between eyes and base of nose; drooping eyelids;
nearsightedness; failure of eyes to move in same direction; short upturned
nose; sunken nasal bridge; flat or absent grooved between nose and upper
lip; thin upper lip; opening in roof of mouth; small jaw; low-set or poorly
Organ deformities: heart
defects; heart murmurs; genital malformations; kidney and urinary defects.
Central nervous system
handicaps: small brain; faulty arrangement of brain cells and connective
tissue; mental retardation usually mild to moderate but occasionally severe;
learning disabilities; short attention span; irritability in infancy;
hyperactivity in childhood; poor body, hand, and finger coordination.
Studies suggest that drinking a large amount of alcohol at any one time may
be more dangerous to the fetus than drinking small amounts more frequently.
The fetus is most vulnerable to various types of injuries depending on
the stage of development in which alcohol is consumed.
A safe amount of drinking during pregnancy has not been determined, and
all major authorities agree that women should not drink at all during pregnancy.
Unfortunately, women sometimes wait until a pregnancy is confirmed before
they stop drinking. By then, the
embryo/fetus has gone through several weeks of critical development, a period
during which exposure to alcohol can be very damaging.
What can you do? Fetal
Alcohol Syndrome is Preventable
If you are trying to get
pregnant Ė donít drink alcohol or limit your intake
If you think that you may
be pregnant Ė donít take any chances, donít drink alcohol
If you are currently pregnant Ė to be safe, donít drink.
If you have been drinking alcohol, talk with your doctor.
Always seek medical attention (prenatal care) when you are pregnant.
If a friend or family member is pregnant Ė be understanding and donít
push them to drink alcohol. Celebrate
with non-alcoholic beverages available (always a good idea, even if you are
Information provided by: CT Clearinghouse,
National Council on
Dept. of Health and Human Services