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Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)
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Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)

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WOMEN'S HEALTH

Pregnancy

MENTAL HEALTH

Addictions & Substance Use

If you drink alcohol while you're pregnant, your fetus has a drink as well. This puts your baby at risk of a serious condition called fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), which is a group of birth defects. These defects are irreversible and can include physical, mental and behavioral problems.

Although doctors aren't sure how much alcohol you'd have to drink to place your baby at risk, the more you drink, the greater the chance of problems developing. For that reason the best advice is: If you're pregnant, don't drink alcohol.

Screening and diagnosis

Although doctors can't diagnose fetal alcohol syndrome before a baby is born, they can assess the health of mother and baby during pregnancy. Based on your reporting the timing and amount of alcohol consumption, your obstetrician could help determine the risk of fetal alcohol syndrome.

Knowing that you had been drinking while pregnant, your child's doctor can look for signs and symptoms of this syndrome in your child's initial weeks, months and years of life. Doctors commonly rely on these manifestations — such as a growth deficiency, facial malformations and the presence of heart defects — to diagnose FAS. At times doctors use a variety of tests — including evaluations of IQ and language development — to help make a diagnosis. Doctors may refer children with possible fetal alcohol syndrome to a medical genetic specialist to determine whether FAS or other problems are present.

It may be difficult for doctors to identify FAS, especially in preschool-age children. In some cases FAS may be very similar to other syndromes that have some of the same physical or behavioral characteristics. These conditions include Turner's syndrome, a chromosomal abnormality affecting girls that can impair intelligence and physical growth, and fragile X syndrome, a chromosomal mutation that causes a form of mild mental retardation. If one child in a family is diagnosed with FAS, it's important to evaluate the siblings to determine whether the same syndrome exists.

Fetal alcohol syndrome > 1 > 2 > 3 > 4

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Last Modified : 03/15/08 12:38 AM