Fetal Alcohol Syndrome FAS: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Other studies of fetal alcohol syndrome suggest that early diagnosis improves the prognosis because implementation of early intervention programs occurs at a younger age. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is a group of problems fetal alcohol poisoning that can happen in a baby when the mother drinks alcohol while pregnant. They can start before the baby is born, or they may not be noticeable until childhood. Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is the most serious type of FASD.

This article will discuss the symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of FAS in children and adults. Sexually active women who drink heavily should use birth control and control their drinking behaviors, or stop using alcohol before trying to get pregnant. Drinking alcohol is likely most harmful during the first 3 months of pregnancy.


Using the information that is available, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other scientists estimate less than 2 cases of FASD in every 1,000 live births in the United States. When researchers look at the whole spectrum of disorders (FASD), the frequency may be as high as 1 to 5 out of every 100 kids in the U.S. and Western Europe. Physical symptoms such as growth impairment remain unchanged during adulthood, with persistent shorter stature. Brain maturation can become prolonged, and aging can accelerate. The overall global prevalence of FAS is uncertain, but the syndrome appears to occur with varying frequency in different countries as well as in different regions within countries. In the United States, FAS occurs with a frequency of anywhere from 0.2 to 2 cases for every 1,000 live births.

  • The result of alcohol on a developing fetus can lead to craniofacial differences, growth impairment, neurodevelopmental disabilities, and behavioral issues.
  • The mechanism for the spectrum of adverse effects on virtually all organ systems of the developing fetus is unknown.
  • There isn’t a direct test for FAS and pregnant people may not give a complete history of all alcohol intake during pregnancy.
  • Executive function training may improve skills such as self-control, reasoning, and understanding cause and effect.

Although there is no treatment for FAS, there are strategies that can improve its symptoms. No amount of alcohol at any point during pregnancy is safe. If you are consuming alcohol and trying to become pregnant or you are currently pregnant, reach out to a healthcare provider for help quitting. Women who are pregnant or who are trying to get pregnant should not drink any amount of alcohol. Pregnant women with alcohol use disorder should join a rehabilitation program and be checked closely by a health care provider throughout pregnancy.

Treatment of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

There can also be mental and emotional challenges throughout the person’s life that can impact their social life, education and work. Less than 4% of the U.S. population are alcohol dependent or alcoholic to the extent of requiring medical treatment and intensive behavioral counseling. However, 25% of the population are considered to be at-risk alcohol users. The majority of those who binge drink are not alcohol dependent. Non-alcohol dependent drinkers will benefit most from brief, straightforward education and support from their primary care provider. Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a group of abnormalities that occur in babies born to mothers who consume alcohol during pregnancy.

While consensus exists for the definition and diagnosis of FAS, minor variations among the systems lead to differences in definitions and diagnostic cut-off criteria for other diagnoses across the FASD continuum. The symptoms of this condition will be with the person throughout their entire life. Over time, a number of secondary effects can happen in people with FAS, particularly in those who aren’t treated for the condition in childhood. These are called secondary effects because they’re not part of FAS itself. Instead, these secondary effects happen as a result of having FAS. Fetal alcohol syndrome happens when a person drinks any alcohol during pregnancy, including wine, beer, hard ciders and “hard liquor”.

Why is fetal alcohol syndrome a concern?

If you did drink any amount of alcohol during pregnancy, it’s important to know that your healthcare provider and your baby’s pediatrician need to know to help you plan for your child’s future. This condition can be prevented if you don’t drink any alcohol during pregnancy. It’s possible that even small amounts of alcohol consumed during pregnancy can damage your developing fetus. Because early diagnosis may help reduce the risk of long-term problems for children with fetal alcohol syndrome, let your child’s doctor know if you drank alcohol while you were pregnant.

  • Some parents and their children seek alternative treatments outside of the medical establishment.
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a group of abnormalities that occur in babies born to mothers who consume alcohol during pregnancy.
  • To diagnose someone with FAS, the doctor must determine that they have abnormal facial features, slower than normal growth, and central nervous system problems.

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