What is FASD?
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are a group of conditions that can occur in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These effects can include physical problems and problems with behavior and learning. Often, a person with an FASD has a mix of these problems.
The term FASD is not meant for use as a clinical diagnosis, but rather to refer to the range of effects that can happen to a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These conditions can affect each person in different ways, and can range from mild to severe.
Cause and Prevention: How Does FASD Happen?
A woman drinking alcohol during pregnancy causes FASDs. There is no known amount of alcohol that is safe to drink while pregnant. There is also no safe time to drink during pregnancy and no safe kind of alcohol to drink while pregnant. To prevent FASD, a woman should not drink alcohol while she is pregnant, or when becoming pregnant is possible. This is because a woman can get pregnant and not know for several weeks or more (half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned).
Signs and Symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)
FASDs refer to the whole range of effects that can happen to a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These conditions can affect each person in different ways, and can range from mild to severe.
- Abnormal facial features, such as a smooth ridge between the nose and upper lip
- Small head size
- Shorter-than-average height
- Low body weight
- Poor coordination
- Hyperactive behavior
- Difficulty paying attention
- Poor memory
- Difficulty in school (especially with math)
- Learning disabilities
- Speech and language delays
- Intellectual disability or low IQ
- Poor reasoning and judgment skills
- Sleep and sucking problems as a baby
- Vision or hearing problems
- Problems with the heart, kidneys, or bones
No amount of alcohol is good for the developing baby, it is not worth the risk! For more information about FASD, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/facts.html
Prevalence: How Many Cases of FASD Are There?
Each year in the United States, an estimated 40,000 babies are born with an FASD, making these disorders more common than new diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010), and a leading preventable cause of intellectual disabilities (Abel & Sokol, 1987). Recent in-school studies suggest that cases of FASD among live births in the U.S., previously reported as approximately 9 per 1,000 (Sampson et al., 1997) could, in reality, be closer to 50 per 1,000 (May, 2009). In addition, recent retrospective analyses of hospital admissions data indicate that under-reporting of alcohol misuse or harm by women may further disguise true prevalence rates (Morleo et al., 2011).
Financial Impact: What Does FASD Cost?
The cost factor of raising a child with an FASD is significant. Amendah and colleagues (2011) found that, for a child with identified FAS, incurred health costs were nine times higher than for children without an FASD. Lupton and colleagues (2004) have estimated the lifetime cost of caring for a person with FAS to be at least $2 million, and the overall annual cost of FASD to the U.S. healthcare system to be more than $6 billion.