Physicians, nurses, mental health providers, social workers, psychologists and other professionals play a crucial role in preventing FASD. As trusted sources for information, it is important to talk to women about the dangers of drinking while pregnant. Healthcare providers and other professionals also have the responsibility of identifying patients with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) to ensure they receive the proper care and services they need.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is an umbrella term describing the range of effects that can occur in an individual whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These effects may include physical, mental, behavioral, and/or learning disabilities with possible lifelong implications.
The term FASD is not intended for use as a clinical diagnosis. Diagnoses such as fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND), partial fetal alcohol syndrome (PFAS), alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD) and fetal alcohol effects (FAE) all fall under the umbrella term of FASD. Those affected by FASD can have brain damage; facial deformities; growth deficits; heart, lung and kidney defects; hyperactivity; attention and memory problems; poor coordination; behavioral problems and learning disabilities. FASD is the leading known cause of intellectual disabilities.
FASD is difficult to identify and often takes several physicians, psychologists, speech pathologists and/or occupational therapists to confirm its presence. While mothers who readily admit to consuming alcohol during pregnancy make identifying the disorder easier, doctors can still confirm a child has FASD when the following four conditions are met:
- Prenatal alcohol exposure (confirmed or not)
- Growth deficits
- Prenatal/Postnatal weight is less than 10th percentile
- Prenatal/Postnatal height/length is less than 10th percentile
- Facial characteristics
- Smooth philtrum (i.e. the vertical groove in the upper lip)
- Thin vermillion border (i.e. demarcation between red on the lip and the skin)
- Small palpebral fissures (i.e. separation between upper and lower eyelids)
- Neurodevelopment problems (must have at least one of the three examples)
- Head circumference at or below 10th percentile
- Observation of abnormal brain structure from image studies
- Does not include external factors like fevers
- Deficits in coordination, visual motor skills and other neurological activities
- Involuntary eye movement
- Cognitive or intellectual deficits below the 3rd percentile for standardized testing
- Functional deficits below the 16th percentile in at least three of the following: cognition or development trouble, poor executive functioning, poor motor functioning, attention or hyperactivity issues, poor social skills, and/or other challenges including sensory problems and memory deficits
Preventing FASD in Addiction Treatment
Addiction treatment professionals can play a vital role in preventing the leading known cause, which is FASD, for intellectual disabilities, birth defects and neurobehavioral disorders in the world. If a woman drinks while she is pregnant, there is a risk for having a child with FASD.
Since FASD is preventable, all clients and their families receiving addiction treatment should be educated on the hazards of drinking while pregnant. For more information concerning FASD and Addiction Treatment click here.
More Resource Downloads
Dr. Kenneth Lyons Jones on the History of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
FASD Expert - Claire Coles
What Corrections Needs to Know About FASD
FASD in the Legal Systems
Dr. Philip May
Dr. Roger Zoorob