Foetal alcohol syndrome

What is Foetal Alcohol Syndrome?

Foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is the more severe end of a continuum of birth defects known[ as foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs).

When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol while pregnant, the alcohol enters her bloodstream where it can then reach the developing baby in high concentrations, which lingers longer than it would in the mother's system.

What are the problems associated with FAS?

Alcohol can cause damage to the unborn child at any time during pregnancy. Contributing factors such as intergenerational alcohol use, parent age, health of the mother, nutritional factors and environmental factors like stress level, also play an important part in the extent of problems to the child. These may include difficulties with;

  • Impulsiveness
  • Learning
  • Social relationships
  • Attention/hyperactivity
  • Memory
  • Relating actions to consequences
  • Developmental delays
  • Organ damage

Craniofacial abnormalities, neuro-developmental, musculoskeletal, cardiac, urogenital, hearing and visual impairments can also appear in FAS.

What can be done?

Characteristic features are seldom apparent at birth (unless the facial and growth factors are observable) and may not be noticed until the child reaches school age when behavioural and learning difficulties become problematic.

Treating FAS may involve a long-term plan of academic intervention and psychological care to deal with issues they may experience as they develop.

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