Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder can result in a wide range of symptoms in a child, including physical, behavioral and learning disabilities.

At Children’s Health℠, we connect kids with FASD with treatments that can help them have healthier futures. We also support parents by connecting them with educational interventions or drug/alcohol rehabilitation treatment. We’re not here to judge – we’re only here to care.

What is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)?

When a mother drinks alcohol or uses drugs during pregnancy, it can cause a condition called fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). This means the baby’s brain and/or body did not form properly in the womb. FASD is a lifelong condition that can create various issues for the child, ranging from heart problems to a short attention span. Symptoms can range from mild to severe.

What are the different types of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)?

Children with FASD may experience problems that affect how their brain functions, how their body works or both.

The most common types of FASD include:

Alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder

Alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND) impacts how a child’s brain works. A child with ARND might suffer from an intellectual disability and struggle with behavior and learning.

A child with an intellectual disability learns and develops more slowly than a typical child. It may take longer for children with an intellectual disability to learn to speak, walk or perform daily tasks than other children their age.

Alcohol-related birth defects

Alcohol-related birth defects (ARBDs) affect how a child’s body develops. Their organs or other body parts may not form properly in the womb, so they might have problems with their heart, kidneys, bones or hearing.

What are the signs and symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)?

Children with FASD may have the following symptoms:

  • Intellectual disability: A child with an intellectual disability learns and develops more slowly than other children their age.
  • Behavioral challenges: A child might throw temper tantrums, have meltdowns in public places and not follow rules at home and at school.
  • Learning challenges: A child with learning challenges might have trouble processing information or face challenges like dyslexia (which affects how they read and interpret words) or ADHD (which impacts a child’s ability to focus).
  • Physical development: A child might experience slower physical growth compared to their peers.
  • Overall delays: A child might have slower development of language, motor skills and social skills compared to kids their age.

How is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) diagnosed?

The easiest way to diagnose FASD is to ask if the mother drank alcohol or used drugs during pregnancy. In newborns, we may look for distinctive facial features associated with FASD or low birth weight. In young children, our doctors may assess your child’s thinking, memory and behavior and ask to learn more about a mom’s alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

What causes Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)?

FASD happens when a woman drinks alcohol or uses drugs during pregnancy.

How is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) treated?

There is no cure for FASD, but we can provide treatment and therapy to help kids manage this condition. We can create a treatment plan that’s tailored to your child’s symptoms and encourage the mother to enter a drug/alcohol rehabilitation treatment program.

Even if everything seems normal when the child is born, we do closer follow-up visits throughout the child’s life so we can catch any concerns early. Language and thinking typically become more complex around third grade, so we pay especially close attention around that time.

For example, if the child struggles in school, we can connect them with an educational and behavioral intervention specialist. If the child has trouble with speech or language, we can make an appointment with a speech pathologist.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Doctors and Providers

At Children’s Health, we have a team of pediatricians and social workers who can help manage care for your child.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is there a cure for fetal alcohol spectrum disorder?

    No. But with early detection and careful planning, we can make sure your child has access to a variety of services that can help decrease their symptoms, including medication, behavioral therapy and educational support.

  • How can you prevent fetal alcohol spectrum disorder?

    The only way to prevent fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is to not drink alcohol or use drugs during pregnancy. It’s also important not to drink alcohol while breastfeeding because the alcohol could show up in the breast milk. This could create problems with your child’s learning and sleep schedule.