Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: Information, Causes and Prevention

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, abbreviated simply as FASDs, are a group of conditions that can occur in a baby or person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. FASD is the umbrella term for the range of disorders. Simply put, alcohol in the mother’s blood can pass to the baby through the umbilical cord. When a mother drinks alcohol, so does the baby.

There is no safe amount of alcohol that one could drink during pregnancy, or when trying to get pregnant. Alcohol can cause a huge amount of problems for a developing baby throughout pregnancy. These problems can be present even before the mother knows she is pregnant. If that mother is a heavy drinker, the conditions would be much worse. All types of alcohol are harmful; including all wines and beer.


The conditions that FASD will cause can include physical problems as well as problems with behavior and learning. This includes problems with vision, hearing, memory, attention span, and abilities to learn and communicate. Often, a person with a Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder has a mix of these problems. Fetal Alcohol disorders can be mild or severe and can cause physical and mental birth defects.

The body of a developing fetus doesn’t process alcohol the same way an adult does. Alcohol is more concentrated in the fetus, and it can prevent nutrition and oxygen from getting to the fetus’ vital organs.

According to many studies, alcohol use is more harmful during the first three months of pregnancy. Of course, consumption of alcohol any time during pregnancy can be harmful. The guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics show more on this topic.

Achievement Center of Texas Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Center
"Craniofacial Features associated with fetal alcohol syndrome" via Wikimedia

Types of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome 

• Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS); a severe form of the condition
• Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (PFAS)
• Alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD)
• Alcohol-related Neurodevelopment Disorder (ARND)
• Neurobehavioral disorder associated with prenatal alcohol exposure

These can all cause malformations in the cardiac, skeletal, renal (urinary), ocular (eyes), and auditory systems.

Symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Because Fetal Alcohol Syndrome covers a wide range of problems, there are many possible symptoms. The severity of these symptoms ranges from mild to severe. Symptoms can include:

• A small head
• A smooth ridge between the upper lip and nose, small and wide-set eyes, a very thin upper lip, or other abnormal facial features
• Below average height and weight
• Hyperactivity
• Lack of focus
• Poor coordination
• Delayed development and problems in thinking, speech, movement, and social skills
• Poor judgment
• Problems seeing or hearing
• Learning disabilities
• Intellectual disability
• Heart problems
• Kidney defects and abnormalities
• Deformed limbs or fingers
• Mood swings

How ACT Helps Those with FAS

FAS is incurable, but there are treatments for some symptoms. The earlier the diagnosis, the more progress can be made. Depending on the symptoms a child with FAS exhibits, they may need many doctor or specialist visits. Special education and social services can help very young children. For example, speech therapists can work with toddlers to help them learn to talk.

Children with FASD will be better off if they live in a stable and loving home. They will do well with a regular routine, simple rules to follow, and rewards for positive behavior. If the children are exposed to violence or abuse at home, they are very likely to develop problems with violence and substance abuse later in life.


There are no medications that specifically treat FAS. However, several medications may address symptoms, and they include:
• antidepressants to treat problems with sadness and negativity
• stimulants to treat lack of focus, hyperactivity, and other behavioral problems
• neuroleptics to treat anxiety and aggression
• antianxiety drugs to treat anxiety


On top of taking the proper medication, Behavioral training may also help. Friendship training teaches kids social skills for interacting with their peers. Executive function training can improve skills such as self-control, reasoning, and understanding cause and effect. While Behavioral training might be effective, it is often not enough. Children with FAS might also need academic help. A math tutor could help a child who struggles in school.

Parents and siblings might also need help in dealing with the challenges this condition can cause. This help can come through talk therapy or support groups. Parents can also receive parental training tailored to the needs of their children. This kind of training teaches parents how to best interact with and care for their child.

Some parents and their children seek alternative treatments outside of the medical establishment. These include healing practices, such as massage and acupuncture (the placement of thin needles into key body areas) and movement techniques, such as exercise or yoga.

Achievement Center of Texas has many students with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder, and we have plenty of space to accommodate all of your individual needs and goals. Click the button below to begin the enrollment process.