Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
If you are having any symptoms or have any questions, please call 811 to speak with a registered nurse 24 hours a day.
What do we know about alcohol exposure during pregnancy?
When a developing baby is exposed to alcohol it can cause birth defects and developmental delay. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a term that describes a range of effects that can happen in a person who was exposed to alcohol prenatally (before birth).
How common is fetal alcohol spectrum disorder?
In Canada, current studies suggest up to 4% of people have FASD.
Remember these things
- No amount of alcohol is safe in pregnancy.
- If you usually drink, quit if you are trying to get pregnant or if you think you’re pregnant.
- If you can’t quit drinking by yourself, get help quickly.
What are the symptoms of FASD?
Babies who have FASD are usually small and underweight. They often have small eyes and a small head. They often have birth defects such as delayed development, heart defects and vision or hearing problems. As they grow older, they may have behavior problems.
CAUSES & RISK FACTORS
Even small amounts of alcohol can be harmful to an unborn baby. It is safest not to drink during pregnancy. (Drinks with alcohol in them include beer, wine, hard liquor and wine coolers.)
“Binge drinking” (having 3 or more drinks at a time) is particularly dangerous for a developing baby, because it makes the level of alcohol in the blood very high very quickly. So, even if exposure to alcohol isn’t daily, it may still put the baby at risk for FASD.
What if I can’t stop drinking?
Be honest with your healthcare provider. Tell them how much you are drinking. Your healthcare provider may be able to help you stop drinking before it hurts your baby.
Is there a cure for FASD?
No, there is no cure. FASD is a lifelong condition. Early support can have a positive impact on those with FASD. This can include providing them with good medical and dental care, including eyeglasses or hearing aids if needed, and placing them in programs to help behavior or development issues.
How can FASD be prevented?
It is safest not to drink any alcohol during pregnancy. More than 50% of pregnancies in Canada are unplanned, and many women may not know they are pregnant early on. If you have sex and are not on birth control, avoid drinking alcohol. If you are worried about your alcohol use, talk to your healthcare provider.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
If your baby was born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder:
- What health problems does my baby have?
- Does my baby need treatment?
- How should I care for my baby at home?
- What health or behavior problems should I look for as my baby gets older?
If you are drinking during pregnancy:
- Am I putting my baby at risk for health problems?
- How much alcohol is too much? Can I have even one drink?
- I have a drinking problem. How do I stop?
FOR MORE INFORMATION
The Canada Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Research Network (CanFASD)
About Kids Health