Fetal alcohol syndrome is a condition in a child that results from alcohol exposure during the mother’s pregnancy. FAS is characterized by growth deficiencies (or, decreased growth), abnormal facial features (specific facial features), and central nervous system (or, brain) abnormalities. FAS falls under the spectrum of adverse outcomes caused by prenatal alcohol exposure called Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD).
There is no amount of alcohol that can be considered safe during pregnancy. It is important to emphasize to prospective parents and all childbearing-aged women, especially those who are pregnant, the importance of not drinking alcohol if a woman is pregnant or considering becoming pregnant. Based on the current research we now know the following:
- Alcohol consumed during pregnancy increases the risk of alcohol-related birth defects, including growth deficiencies, facial abnormalities, central nervous system impairment, behavioral disorders, and impaired intellectual development.
- No amount of alcohol consumption can be considered safe during pregnancy.
- Alcohol can damage a fetus at any stage of pregnancy. Damage can occur in the earliest weeks of pregnancy, even before a woman knows that she is pregnant.
- The cognitive deficits and behavioral problems resulting from prenatal alcohol exposure are lifelong.
- Alcohol-related birth defects are completely preventable.
For these reasons:
- A pregnant woman should not drink alcohol during pregnancy.
- A pregnant woman who has already consumed alcohol during her pregnancy should stop in order to minimize further risk.
- A woman who is considering becoming pregnant should abstain from alcohol.
- Recognizing that nearly half of all births in the United States are unplanned, women of childbearing age should consult their physician and take steps to reduce the possibility of prenatal alcohol exposure.
- Health professionals should inquire routinely about alcohol consumption by women of childbearing age, inform them of the risks of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, and advise them not to drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy.
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