Alcohol and Your Baby

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By the end of this session you will:

Learn the difference between

  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)
  • Fetal Alcohol Effect (FAE)
  • Find out what happens to a fetus when a mom drinks.
  • Learn the long-term effects on a baby and family with FAS or FAE.

FAS Facial Characteristics

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Fetal Alcohol Effect (FAE) are the number one preventable forms of birth defects today.

It is totally preventable. Don't drink during pregnancy!

What is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?

FAS physical defects include:

  • small at birth
  • shorter size
  • underweight
  • deformed fingers and toes
  • develop slowly

Infants with FAS also tend to have a particular pattern of facial abnormalities such as:

  • abnormally small head
  • low nasal bridge
  • abnormally small eyes
  • flat midface
  • short noseFAS Kid features
  • thin upper lip

FAS also includes, deformities in the major organ systems, especially the heart.

baby crawlingMental defects:

  • Low IQ's
  • Permanent brain damage
  • Learning problems
  • Poor coordination
  • Short attention spans

babies playingEmotional defects:

  • Hyperactive
  • Behavioral problems

These defects continue throughout the child's life.

What is Fetal Alcohol Effect?

  • Children with Fetal Alcohol Effect may show no physical signs and may have normal or above normal intelligence.  They may have behavioral problems, attention deficit disorders and hyperactivity.  They often show poor judgment and have trouble with the law.  They tend to have problems with school, family and friends.
Pregnant woman

When Pregnant Women Drink so Does BABY!

  • Alcohol is toxic (a poison) and it passes directly from mom to baby through the placenta.
  • Alcohol can affect the way cells grow and join together as they multiply.
  • The baby's brain is particularly sensitive to alcohol and alcohol can reduce the number of cells growing in the brain. The developing brain is often smaller and the neurons (nerves that send messages) are found in the wrong places.
  • The first three months are the MOST CRITICAL to the development of the baby's internal organs. This is a time when many women don't even know they are pregnant!

activity 1

 * 1. Kids with fetal alcohol syndrome have bad behavior all the time.

 * 2. There is a cure for fetal alcohol syndrome.

 * 3. FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) means that a baby is born drunk.

 * 4. FAS can cause behavior problems.

 * 5. FAS can cause learning problems.

 * 6. FAS is the leading cause of mental retardation.

 * 7. There are always physical signs in a baby with Fetal Alcohol Effect (FAE).

 * 8. The first three months of a women's pregnancy is the most critical time to the development of the baby's internal organs.

Stages of Developing Fetus
Guidelines of Care for Children with Special Health Care Needs
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Effects
Minnesota Department of Health 1999
FAS Chart

activity 2

3. Does damage start before most people realize they are pregnant?

Damage Caused by Alcohol:

1st Trimester:

Causes greatest brain damage, facial malformations, miscarriage, damages heart, liver and kidneys

2nd Trimester:

Impairs brain development, damages muscles, teeth, bones and skin

3rd Trimester:

Impairs lung development, poor weight gain for fetus, causes early labor and delivery

Why should I Worry?

Recent studies in the United States indicate between 1300 and 8000 children are born with FAS. That's about 1 in every 500 births. Many more are born with FAE, about 1 in every 300 births.

"The consequences of prenatal abuse are likely under reported. Hospitals report some 2,700 cases annually of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. But because signs of this disease-physical deformities, stunted growth, behavioral abnormalities and mental retardation-are often not apparent at birth, many experts place the number of FAS babies at 12,000 a year." (National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.)

  • Recent CDC findings indicate that 1 in 8 women between 18 and 44 years of age report "risk drinking". Risk drinking means having 7 or more drinks per week, or 5 or more drinks at one time.
  • One out of every 29 women who know they are pregnant report risk drinking.

12 oz. beer

4 oz. wine

1 ounce liquor

Which Alcoholic Beverage has the Least Amount of Alcohol?


What happens when baby comes home?

  • Babies with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome are often irritable. They are very sensitive to light, noise and touch. They have a difficult time feeding because of weak sucking and fatigue.  They have problems with sleep, they're fussy and not easily soothed. They are jittery, nervous and cry excessively. There are often on-going medical problems.
  • As you can see, any one of these problems would put a strain on anyone. FAS babies often have more than one problem.  These problems don't go away. As the infant gets older they may become upset easier, hyperactive and easily distracted. The child may show developmental delays and have problems using muscles. This is only the beginning of a long and bumpy road for a fetal alcohol child. They often have difficulties getting along with others.  Poor problem solving skills, judgment, impulse control and immature behavior cause problems with the law.

activity 3

If you have further questions or want more information see links below.

FASlink Discussion
FASlink Archives
Bruce Ritchie's extensive resources, including the FASlink Discussion Forum and the FASlink Archives. More than 50,000 letters and articles on FAS related subjects.
FAS Community Resource Centre
Teresa Kellerman's Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Community Resource Center, Tucson Arizona. Terrific website on FAS. Extensive information and resources including books, videos, etc. Well worth an extended visit.
FASSTAR.COM Teresa Kellerman's Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Support, Training Advocacy and Resources website for information on training and workshops for agencies.


International FAS Day. Brian Philcox and Bonnie Buxton. Volunteers from around the world work together year-round to build awareness. Each year, on September 9, we observe International FAS Awareness Day with its "Minute of Reflection" at 9:09 a.m.
Sterling K. Clarren, M.D. and
Susan J. Astley, Ph.D.
Washington State Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Diagnostic and Prevention Network, University of Washington
Dr. Ann Streissguth Dr. Ann Streissguth and her team up at the University of Washington Fetal Alcohol Drug Unit
Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse A non-profit organization working to minimize the harm associated with the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counsellors NAADAC (U.K.) - Extensive resources and links.
FAS*FRI's web site FAS Family Resource Institute
Texas Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Consortium Texas Office for Prevention of Developmental Disabilities
Alcohol Related Birth Defects A short informational page with suggestions for organization and advocacy.
ARBI - Alcohol Related Birth Injury (FAS/FAE) Resource Site - We offer information about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Alcohol Related Birth Injury in a format designed for quick access to the information you require and quick access to links for many related sites.
Children's Special Needs Community - - - Community support for unique families : adoption and children's special needs.
FAS Sites in Other Languages  
German FAS Information Information on FAS in German language.
Spanish information on FAS/FAE. Information on FAS in Spanish language.
FAS FAQ Questions and Answers from the CDC
FAS, the leading known cause of mental retardation NCADD facts, statistics, symptoms
The Ethanol Bath from the University of Washington School of Medicine's Newsletter January 2000
Fetal Alcohol and Drug Unit Bio and projects of Ann P. Streissguth, Ph.D
1996 Report from Intsitute of Medicine Executive Summary
National Institute of Health Articles and Research Abstracts on FAS
FAS Alaska Deb Evensen's excellent site for Project FACTS
Understanding FAS and ARND Diane Malbin's explanation of the "invisible disability."
Close to Home Bill Moyers series on addiction.
Study on Social Drinking During Pregnancy Recent study on primates
What can YOU do? League For The Prevention of Alcohol Related Fetal Brain Injury
Lakeland FAS in Alberta, Canada.
Seven Steps to Having a Healthy Baby Emory University
Booze News Center for Science in the Public Interest CSPI
FERTILE MINDS From birth, a baby's brain cells proliferate wildly, making connections that may shape a lifetime of experience. The first three years are critical.


 * Where are you taking today's lesson?

You have completed the pregnancy Class on “Alcohol and Your Baby”. If you have any questions or comments, please contact your LWP nutritionist who will be glad to answer any of your questions. 

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