Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)
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What is fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD)?
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is a group of problems that can happen in a baby when the fetus is exposed to alcohol in the womb. The impacts can be physical, mental, or behavioral. They can be mild or severe. They can start before the baby is born, or they may not be noticeable until childhood.
What do we know about alcohol exposure during pregnancy?
Experts agree that there is no safe level of drinking during pregnancy. It is safest not to drink during pregnancy.
How common is fetal alcohol spectrum disorder?
In Canada, current studies suggest up to 4% of people have FASD.
What are the symptoms of FASD?
Symptoms of babies who have fetal alcohol syndrome include:
- Poor growth in the womb
- Small and underweight at birth.
- Small head and eyes
- Heart defects, such as a hole in the heart
- Delayed development
- Vision or hearing issues.
As they grow older, these children may have behavior issues. They may experience learning difficulties, issues with memory and attention, and hyperactivity.
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.
There isn’t a test for FASD. Your healthcare provider will look for physical symptoms, such as a low birth weight and a small head. They will look at behavioral symptoms, such as attention and coordination. FASD can be difficult to diagnose in childhood because it has similar symptoms to other disorders, such as ADHD.
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 people 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.
Is there a cure for FASD?
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 developmental difficulties.
According to the Canada Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Research Network (CanFASD), there is good evidence that early and appropriate support can improve outcomes for people with FASD.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
The Canada Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Research Network (CanFASD)