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Could UR Child Have A Birth Defect Because Of UR Alcohol Consumption?

Medically reviewed by Dr. Vimee Bindra MS (OBS & Gynecologist)

4 min read

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a condition that results when a pregnant woman consumes alcohol. This condition causes brain damage and developmental problems and is a spectrum which may have physical, neurological, mental and learning defects. Though FAS can be prevented, it is incapacitating. But while the weaknesses vary from individual to individual, these defects can be permanent.

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Types Of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Alcohol-related Congenital Disabilities

Alcohol-related Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Neurobehavioral Disorder Associated With Prenatal Alcohol Exposure

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When the mother consumes alcohol during her pregnancy, the distribution of alcohol to the baby through the umbilical cord causes FAS. There is no measure of ‘safe limit’ alcohol intake during pregnancy. Prenatal consumption of alcohol by the mother should be discouraged before conception and right through the pregnancy as alcohol can cause neurodevelopmental disorders and alcohol-related birth defects. So abstinence from alcohol should begin from the very first visit to the doctor or should be promptly treated if the mother-to-be is not able to stop drinking alcohol.

When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol during pregnancy, it crosses the placenta and reaches the developing baby. The foetus metabolises alcohol slower than an adult. The alcohol content in the blood interferes with oxygen supply and nutrition supply to the developing baby. Alcohol consumption by a pregnant mother can cause permanent brain damage in the baby.


The symptoms are a combination of physical, cognitive and mental disabilities and neurodevelopmental disorders. However, the severity and extent of symptoms for FAS can widely differ among individuals. Some individuals may also have difficulty in coping with their daily life routine.

Physical Defects
  • FAS facies
  • An individual with this disorder may have distinctive facies, small eyes, thin upper lip, short nose, upturned nose and smooth skin between the nose and upper lip
  • Joint and limb deformities
  • Slow growth both before and after birth
  • Small head circumference and head size
  • Vision and hearing defects
  • Cardiac, renal and bony defects
Neurological And Brain Defects
  • Poor memory and coordination
  • Learning disabilities
  • Delayed milestones and delayed development
  • Bad memory
  • Attention-deficit
  • Rapidly changing moods
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Hyperactivity and jitteriness
  • Trouble processing information and analysing it

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FAS is a disorder that comes under the umbrella term known as a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) which further comprises of five disorders:

  • Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)
  • Partial fetal alcohol syndrome (pFAS)
  • Alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND),
  • Neurobehavioral disorder associated with prenatal alcohol exposure (ND-PAE)
  • Alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD)

For diagnosis, all these disorders come into play to indicate the physical and neurological effects of prenatal alcohol consumption by the mother on the fetus. Additionally, each of the five disorders that include the FASD has particular criteria for diagnosis. But due to the extensive exhibition and immense similarity with other hereditary and environment causes, making a definitive diagnosis is not possible for FASD. Once FASD is suspected, the patient will be referred to some specialists to exclude other likely conditions for a conclusive diagnosis.
The specialist could vary depending on the patient’s age. Usually, the team of specialists for diagnosis includes a physician or paediatrician or someone with knowledge and expertise in FASD, psychologist, occupational therapist and a speech-language pathologist.


No one treatment is a comprehensive treatment as this a spectrum of disorders and every child presents differently. The child needs medical, physical, behavioural and social modalities of treatment. Initially, treatment begins with behavioural education and physiotherapy. Meanwhile, parent training with all respective medications and other medical therapy should go on simultaneously.

Social skill development, training and educational interventions should also be provided -primary care in a specialist centre with medical help and community support services.


FAS can be prevented by simply avoiding alcohol intake during pregnancy. If you are planning a pregnancy, stop drinking alcohol and continue to avoid drinking alcohol throughout UR pregnancy. If you are not able to stop drinking alcohol, get help before planning a pregnancy. Since pregnancy is not confirmed until the 4th-6th week of fetal development, couples are advised to avoid alcohol altogether, as you may expose your developing baby to alcohol without meaning to.

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