What is FASD?
FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) 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, behavioral, mental, and/or learning disabilities with possible lifelong implications.
The term FASD is not intended for use as a clinical diagnosis. FASD is an educational term that includes the
range of individuals from those who have the full syndrome to those who have only a few issues with learning and behavior and no facial or growth issues.
The disorders under the FASD umbrella are:
- Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)
- Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE)
- Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (PFAS)
- Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND)
- Central Nervous System (CNS)
As stated above, FASDs are caused by a woman drinking alcohol during pregnancy. There is no known amount of alcohol that is safe to drink while pregnant. There is also no safe time to drink during pregnancy and no safe kind of alcohol to drink while pregnant. To prevent FASDs, a woman should not drink alcohol while she is pregnant, or even when she might get pregnant. This is because a woman could get pregnant and not know for several weeks or more. In the United States, half of pregnancies are unplanned.
Each year in the U.S. between 35,000 and 40,000 babies are born with a fetal alcohol-related disorder.
Only trained professionals can diagnose FASD. Most individuals with FASD are never diagnosed. This often happens with children who exhibit only the behavioral and emotional problems related to FASD, but do not display any signs of developmental or physical growth deficiencies.
To diagnose Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, doctors look for:
- Abnormal facial features (e.g., smooth ridge between nose and upper lip)
- Lower-than-average height, weight, or both
- Central nervous system problems (e.g., small head size, problems with attention and hyperactivity, poor coordination)
- Prenatal alcohol exposure; although confirmation is not required to make a diagnosis
To learn more about criteria for diagnosis, click here.
Problems associated with FASD tend to intensify as children move into adulthood. These can include mental health problems, troubles with the law and the inability to live independently.
The younger a person is diagnosed or identified with FASD and appropriate interventions and services are initiated, the higher the probability they will live independently and function well in society.
To view the "FASD: Finding Hope Documentary," click here.
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FASD and Brain Function
FASD and Its Effects
FASD: An Overview