Category Archives: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Symptoms

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Symptoms

What are the symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or FAS?  First you must know that there are two main types of fetal alcohol syndrome symptoms, physical and mental.  Even if your child does not look like he or she has fas, if you drank during your pregnancy, you should look for mental or emotional symptoms later in development so that you can seek the proper help.

Fetal alcohol physical symptoms.  Babies diagnosed with FAS will have at least some of these physical symptoms.

  • Small birth weight
  • Small head circumference
  • Small eye openings
  • Smooth, wide philtrum  – the vertical groove in the upper lip
  • Thin upper lip

Fetal Alcohol emotional or mental symptoms.  Most of these symptoms will be identified as the child matures but are more serious than the superficial symptoms.

  • Attention deficits
  • Memory deficits
  • Hyperactivity
  • Difficulty with abstract concepts
  • Inability to manage money
  • Poor problem solving skills
  • Difficulty learning from consequences
  • Immature social behavior
  • Inappropriately friendly to strangers
  • Lack of control over emotions
  • Poor impulse control
  • Poor judgment
  • Hyper Sexuality is sometimes displayed in maturing males.

Most children diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome are irritable, have trouble sleeping, startle easily and can have many health problems.  Common FAS health problems are heart defects and other problems with their livers, ears and joints.

Additionally children who have Fetal Alcohol syndrome often have mental developmental delays and have lower than normal intelligence.  Only 15% of FAS children have IQs lower than 70, which is considered lower than average or border line retardation.   However, most FAS children achieve normal IQ levels.

There are many secondary symptoms of children or adults with Fetal alcohol Syndrome.

  • Trouble maintaining relationships
  • Inability to keep a job
  • Staying in School
  • Mental Health Problems
  • Trouble with the law
  • Inappropriate Sexual Behavior
  • Drug and Alcohol Problems.  FAS often can make a person more prone to have substance abuse problems in adulthood.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome children and adults can be successful in life but need long term support and treatment.  With the proper guidance and support from loved ones they can make the transition into adulthood.

There are many forms of treatment, support and aid for parents of children or children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  Here are some more articles that discuss FAS treatment, FAS support and FAS statistics.

For information regarding Fetal Alcohol Syndrome treatment or Alcohol Abuse treatment click here.

Life is Hard for Adults with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Adults with fetal alcohol syndrome face huge challenges

by Tom Robertson, Minnesota Public Radio November 21, 2007 Listen to feature audio

When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, she risks giving birth to a child with irreversible brain damage. But the problems associated with fetal alcohol exposure don’t end when those children grow up. There are hundreds of thousands of adults across the country affected by a range of lingering disorders.

Most of those adults have trouble living independently. They often have poor judgment and stunted social skills. Their unpredictable behavior can get them into serious trouble.

Bemidji, Minn. — There are very few places in the country that specialize in residential care for adults with fetal alcohol brain damage. That’s what makes Westbrook farm west of Duluth so unique.

It’s a gorgeous setting — 160 acres of rolling pastures and thick forests near the St. Louis River. The farm is home to eight young men struggling with the lasting effects of prenatal alcohol exposure.


Two brown and white miniature horses nibble hay in the barn. Billy Nelson, 20, gently scratches their ears. Nelson considers the horses his friends — and his therapy.

“This one’s Drummer and that one’s Chance,” says Nelson. “You can take them out in the yard and run with them, and they stay by your side. They’re really nice horses.”

Nelson has lived at Westbrook for about two years, but it was a rough road getting here. His mom was a drinker. He and his twin brother were born in St. Paul three and a half months premature. His brother died just a few weeks after birth.

Nelson was placed in a series of foster homes, treatment centers and psychiatric care facilities. He was into drugs and alcohol, and was prone to violence. Nelson figures if he hadn’t ended up at this farm, he’d probably be in prison.

“I used to be crazy and all that when I first came here, but then I realized what my plan was to do on this earth before I pass on,” says Nelson. “I need to take the punches and say, hey, just get my stuff together so I can move on in life and better myself. Because if you don’t better yourself, you’re not going nowhere.”

Westbrook farm was started five years ago by a Duluth nonprofit organization called Residential Services, Inc. The goal is to teach basic living skills to adults affected by fetal alcohol exposure, and help them live independently.

It’s a population that health advocates say is grossly underserved in this country. Studies show 90 percent have mental health problems, and 80 percent have trouble holding onto a job.


Nelson and the others at Westbrook lack impulse control and have trouble understanding the consequences of their behaviors.

Travis Dombrovski, manager of Westbrook, says that means daily life on the farm is unpredictable and sometimes explosive.

“They break things, and they yell and they scream and they swear, and they’re hyper-sexual,” Dombrovski says. “Assaults, sure, phones being thrown, lots of property destruction. It’s got to be a helpless feeling. It’s got to be scary and it’s got to be hard to understand.”

Dombrovski says Westbrook’s residents have trouble learning from their mistakes, so instead of punishment, they face what he calls “natural consequences.” For example, when someone gets angry and breaks something, they’re required to fix or replace it.

Despite evidence that punishment is ineffective on adults affected by fetal alcohol, some 60 percent of them will spend time behind bars. Dombrovski say society needs to take a different approach.

[full article: link ]

Blog Entry dated 12/20/2007 1:34 AM

Fetal Alcohol Exposure May Prime Offspring for Alcoholism

Rat studies suggest the senses learn to like drinking early on

By Amanda Gardner Posted 12/13/07

THURSDAY, Dec. 13 (HealthDay News) — Rats exposed to alcohol while still in the womb learn to like the substance and are more drawn to it as young rats, a new study shows.

The observation may help explain why teens with prior fetal exposure to drinking may be more likely to abuse the substance, researchers say.

“[Exposure] to something mom ate during gestation will alter its response,” explained Steven Youngentob, a professor of neuroscience and physiology at State University of New York (SUNY) and member of the SUNY Upstate Developmental Exposure Alcohol Research Center in Syracuse.

Youngentob is lead author of two studies detailing these findings in the December issue of Behavioral Neuroscience.

[source: link]

Cause of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

What Causes Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is caused by a pregnant mother exposing her unborn child to alcohol.  This exposure severely stunts the development of the unborn child.  The effects extend are varied and often extremely harmful to the child and will hurt their mental and physical development as they mature into adulthood.  

Risk Levels – Consuming any alcohol while pregnant is harmful to the child’s development but there are different levels of risk.


High Risk – Confirmed use of Alcohol accompanied by high blood alcohol levels

Some Risk – Confirmed use of Alcohol with lower than high blood alcohol levels

No Risk – No alcohol consumed while pregnant


Although the level of risk goes down if you have lower blood alcohol levels it doesn’t mean that the consequences are less severe.  The best thing to do for your child is to completely quit drinking while pregnant. 

Drinking Alcohol while pregnant can cause horrible health problems.  List of Fetal Alcohol Symptoms

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, so does her unborn baby. There is no known safe amount of alcohol to drink while pregnant and there also does not appear to be a safe time to drink during pregnancy either. Therefore, it is recommended that women abstain from drinking alcohol at any time during pregnancy. Women who are sexually active and do not use effective birth control should also refrain from drinking because they could become pregnant and not know for several weeks or more.

What are FAS and FASDs?

Prenatal exposure to alcohol can cause a range of disorders, known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). One of the most severe effects of drinking during pregnancy is fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). FAS is one of the leading known preventable causes of mental retardation and birth defects. If a woman drinks alcohol during her pregnancy, her baby can be born with FAS, a lifelong condition that causes physical and mental disabilities. FAS is characterized by abnormal facial features, growth deficiencies, and central nervous system (CNS) problems. People with FAS might have problems with learning, memory, attention span, communication, vision, hearing, or a combination of these. These problems often lead to difficulties in school and problems getting along with others. FAS is a permanent condition. It affects every aspect of an individual’s life and the lives of his or her family.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) is an umbrella term describing the range of effects that can occur in an individual whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These effects include physical, mental, behavioral, and/or learning disabilities with possible lifelong implications. The term FASDs is not intended for use as a clinical diagnosis.

FASDs include FAS as well as other conditions in which individuals have some, but not all, of the clinical signs of FAS. Three terms often used are fetal alcohol effects (FAE), alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND), and alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD). The term FAE has been used to describe behavioral and cognitive problems in children who were prenatally exposed to alcohol, but who do not have all of the typical diagnostic features of FAS. In 1996, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) replaced FAE with the terms ARND and ARBD. Children with ARND might have functional or mental problems linked to prenatal alcohol exposure. These include behavioral or cognitive abnormalities or a combination of both. Children with ARBD might have problems with the heart, kidneys, bones, and/or hearing.

All FASDs are 100% preventable—if a woman does not drink alcohol while she is pregnant.

How common are FAS and FASDs?

The reported rates of FAS vary widely. These different rates depend on the population studied and the surveillance methods used. CDC studies show FAS rates ranging from 0.2 to 1.5 per 1,000 live births in different areas of the United States. Other FASDs are believed to occur approximately three times as often as FAS.

What are the characteristics of children with FAS and other FASDs?

FAS is the severe end of a spectrum of effects that can occur when a woman drinks during pregnancy. Fetal death is the most extreme outcome. FAS is a disorder characterized by abnormal facial features and growth and central nervous system (CNS) problems. If a pregnant woman drinks alcohol but her child does not have all of the symptoms of FAS, it is possible that her child has another FASD, such as alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND). Children with ARND do not have full FAS but might demonstrate learning and behavioral problems caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. Examples of these problems are difficulties with mathematical skills, difficulties with memory or attention, poor school performance, and poor impulse control and/or judgment.

Children with FASDs might have the following characteristics or exhibit the following behaviors:

  • Small size for gestational age or small stature in relation to peers
  • Facial abnormalities such as small eye openings
  • Poor coordination
  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Learning disabilities
  • Developmental disabilities (e.g., speech and language delays)
  • Mental retardation or low IQ
  • Problems with daily living
  • Poor reasoning and judgment skills
  • Sleep and sucking disturbances in infancy

Children with FASDs are at risk for psychiatric problems, criminal behavior, unemployment, and incomplete education. These are secondary conditions that an individual is not born with but might acquire as a result of FAS or a related disorder. These conditions can be very serious, but there are protective factors that have been found to help individuals with FASDs. For example, a child who is diagnosed early in life can be placed in appropriate educational classes and given access to social services that can help the child and his or her family. Children with FASDs who receive special education are more likely to achieve their developmental and educational potential. In addition, children with FASDs need a loving, nurturing, and stable home life to avoid disruptions, transient lifestyles, or harmful relationships. Children with FASDs who live in abusive or unstable homes or who become involved in youth violence are much more likely than those who do not have such negative experiences to develop secondary conditions.

If you think your child might have an FASD, contact your doctor who might be able to refer you to a specialist who can assess your child.

How can we prevent FASDs?

FASDs are completely preventable—if a woman does not drink alcohol while she is pregnant or could become pregnant. If a woman is drinking during pregnancy, it is never too late for her to stop. The sooner a woman stops drinking, the better it will be for both her baby and herself. If a woman is not able to stop drinking, she should contact her doctor, local Alcoholics Anonymous, or local alcohol treatment center. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a Substance Abuse Treatment Facility locator. This locator helps people find drug and alcohol treatment programs in their area. If a woman is sexually active and is not using an effective form of birth control, she should not drink alcohol. She could become pregnant and not know it for several weeks or more.

Mothers are not the only ones who can prevent FASDs. The father’s role is also important in helping the mother abstain from drinking alcohol during pregnancy. He can encourage her not drinking alcohol by avoiding social situations that involve drinking and by not drinking alcohol himself. Significant others, family members, schools, health and social service organizations, and communities can also help prevent FASDs through education and intervention.

In February 2005, the U.S. Surgeon General issued an Advisory on Alcohol Use in Pregnancy to raise public awareness about this important health concern. To reduce prenatal alcohol exposure, prevention efforts should target not only pregnant women who are currently drinking, but also women who could become pregnant, are drinking at high-risk levels, and are having unprotected sex.