Fetal alcohol syndrome is a condition in a child that results from exposure to alcohol during the mother’s pregnancy. Fetal alcohol syndrome causes brain damage and growth problems. The problems caused by fetal alcohol syndrome vary from child to child, but the abnormalities caused by fetal alcohol syndrome are irreversible.

No amount of alcohol is known to be safe to consume during pregnancy. If you drink during pregnancy, you put your baby at risk for fetal alcohol syndrome.

If you think your child may have fetal alcohol syndrome, speak to your doctor as soon as possible. Early diagnosis can help reduce problems such as learning disabilities and behavior problems.

Symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome vary in severity, with some children experiencing them to a much greater extent than others. The signs and symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome can include any mixture of physical defects, mental or cognitive impairments, and problems with functioning and managing daily life.

The reasons
If you are pregnant and drink alcohol:

Alcohol gets into your bloodstream and reaches your developing fetus by crossing the placenta
Alcohol causes higher levels of alcohol in the blood in your developing baby than in your body because a fetus metabolizes alcohol more slowly than an adult.
Alcohol affects the oxygen supply and optimal nutrition of your developing baby

Risk factors
The more alcohol you drink during pregnancy, the greater the risk of problems for your baby. There is no known safe amount of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

You could endanger your baby before you even know you are pregnant. Don’t drink alcohol if:

You’re pregnant
You think you are pregnant
You are trying to get pregnant

The problem behaviors absent at birth that can result from fetal alcohol syndrome (secondary disabilities) include:

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Aggression, inappropriate social behavior, and violation of rules and laws
Alcohol or drug abuse
Mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, or eating disorders
Problems staying or leaving school
Independent life and employment issues
Inappropriate sexual behavior

Experts know that fetal alcohol syndrome is completely preventable if women do not drink alcohol at all during pregnancy.

These guidelines can help prevent fetal alcohol syndrome:

Don’t drink alcohol when trying to get pregnant. If you haven’t stopped drinking, stop drinking as soon as you know you are pregnant, or even if you think you may be pregnant. It’s never too late to stop drinking during pregnancy, but the sooner you stop, the better for your baby.
Continue to avoid alcohol during your pregnancy. Fetal alcohol syndrome is completely preventable in children whose mothers do not drink during pregnancy.
If you are sexually active and have unprotected sex, you should refrain from alcohol when you are of childbearing age. Many pregnancies are unplanned and damage can occur in the first few weeks of pregnancy.

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