Fetal Alcohol Syndrome | Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a condition which can occur when a woman drinks alcohol during pregnancy. FAS creates serious developmental, social, and educational problems for a child which can require treatment.

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), is a condition in which prenatal alcohol exposure takes place. 

When FAS occurs due to excessive alcohol consumption, the baby may be born with a range of symptoms such as low birth weight or a small head according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome & FASDs

When someone drinks alcohol during pregnancy, the baby is exposed to the substance due to the varying amount of alcohol which enters the bloodstream and travels from the mother to the developing fetus via the umbilical cord. 

Pregnant women should avoid drinking alcohol due to the developmental disabilities which can occur in the child.

Other FASD conditions consist of alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD), alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND), partial fetal alcohol syndrome (PFAS), and neurobehavioral disorder associated with prenatal alcohol exposure (ND-PAE).

Participating in alcohol abuse, particularly binge drinking, can lead to serious health problems for the mother and child. Although there are risk factors at birth, a child may continue to struggle with intellectual disabilities throughout their life due to FAS.

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Symptoms Of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

FAS may cause a wide range of symptoms that can hinder a child’s development. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), some of the symptoms associated with FAS include:

  • impairment of the central nervous system
  • small head
  • low birth weight
  • thin upper lip
  • problems with the kidneys or heart
  • abnormalities regarding facial features
  • small eyes
  • poor coordination
  • a smooth philtrum (the groove between the nose and upper lip)

Additionally, other symptoms may present during adolescent years, including:

  • poor social skills
  • behavioral problems
  • symptoms associated with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • learning disabilities
  • speech problems
  • mental health challenges

In some instances, development disabilities may require special education options to help the child with the issues they face as a result of being exposed to alcohol in the womb.

Causes Of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

If a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, the alcohol enters the bloodstream and can penetrate the placenta and reach the unborn child. The amount of alcohol imbibed during pregnancy may determine the severity of FAS.

For instance, drinking heavily as a form of substance abuse during the first trimester may cause the child to experience health issues related to the kidneys and brain function. Drinking any amount of alcohol can potentially be harmful to you and your unborn child.

To ensure a safe delivery and a healthy child, women who are pregnant should avoid alcohol throughout the duration of their pregnancy.

Treatment For Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Parents who suspect their child may have FAS should contact their pediatrician to receive an early diagnosis. With treatments such as parent training and follow-up care, healthcare workers can monitor your child to determine if any difficulties arise.

Those experiencing problems with memory, impulse control, judgment, and attention may require special education or social service options if a child’s behavior has been impaired due to FAS.

A primary care doctor may also provide a referral for alcohol addiction treatment for the mother.

To learn how we treat alcohol addiction in pregnant women or new mothers, please contact us today.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/facts.html
  2. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/research/fetal-alcohol-spectrum-disorders
  3. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus https://medlineplus.gov/fetalalcoholspectrumdisorders.html
  4. National Library of Medicine: StatPearls https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK448178/#:~:text=Fetal%20alcohol%20syndrome%20(FAS)%20is,and%20central%20nervous%20system%20defects.
  5. Neuropsychology Review https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3779274/
  6. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/SAMHSA_Digital_Download/tip58_literaturereview.pdf

Written by Ohio Recovery Center Editorial Team

Published on: October 19, 2023

© 2024 Ohio Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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