Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

No amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy.


A teratogen is any outside agent that can cause damage during pregnancy. The effects of a teratogen is dependent on how long the exposure is, how much of the teratogen is taken and what stage of pregnancy it is exposed. Teratogens include: prescription drugs, illegal drugs, tobacco, radiation, environmental pollution, infectious disease, and alcohol.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

A blanket term used to describe children who were exposed to alcohol during pregnancy. Children are then given a diagnosis which varies in severity and is characterized by a pattern of minor facial dysmorphic features, growth deficiency and central nervous system symptoms.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

-slow physical growth

-three facial abnormalities

-brain injury in at least three areas (memory, language, attention span or social skills)

Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (p-FAS)

-two facial abnormalities

-brain injury evident in at least three areas

Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND)

-three areas of impaired mental function

-no facial abnormalities

-typical growth patterns

Physical Abnormalitites

Facial Abnormalities

There are three major facial abnormalities associated with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

1) A thin upper lip

2) A flat philtrum (area between nose and upper lip)

3) Small eye openings

Brain injuries

Evident in a small head size and functional impairment.

Growth Deficiencies

Fetal alcohol syndrome children will not catch up in physical size during childhood.


There can be many other physical issues present due to fetal alcohol spectrum disorder such as defects of the ears, eyes, throat, nose, genitals, urinary tract, heart and immune system.

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Functional Issues of Fetal Alcohol Specrtrun Disorder

Alcohol can effect children in many ways mentally and emotionally depending on when the teratogen is introduced. FAS can also take a toll on the motor coordination of the child effected.

Mental Areas Effected by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder


-language skills

-planning and reasoning

-social skills

-attention span

-activity level or over activity

-speed of information processing

Outcomes of these Effected Areas

-poor performance in school

-issues involving authority or the law

-inappropriate sexual behavior

Time of Exposure

The earlier in the pregnancy that the child is exposed to alcohol the more severe the effects. If a teratogen is introduced before the zygote is implanted the cells are either unaffected or if effected they will die. When a teratogen is introduced a little later in the pregnancy (while it is still a embryo) is when the most defects occur because not all foundations are laid down yet. In the pregnancy while in the fetal period, damage from teratogens is usually minor.

The more alcohol consumed during the pregnancy, the worse the results for the child.

No amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy due to the affects of environmental and genetic factors that can change the course of teratogens.


Unfortunately, girls who are affected by the syndrome when they have children of their own will often exhibit the same poor judgment their mother did and drink alcohol while pregnant. This only perpetuates the cycle.


Berk, L.E. (2010). Development through the lifespan (5th ed.). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.

Dörrie, N., Föcker, M., Freunscht, I., & Hebebrand, J. (2014). Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 23, 863-875. doi:10.1007/s00787-014-0571-6