Women who drink alcohol during pregnancy can give birth to babies with fetal alcohol disorders known as FASDs. FASD is the umbrella term for a range of disorders. These disorders can be mild or severe and can cause physical and mental birth defects.
Types of FASDs include:
fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)
partial fetal alcohol syndrome
alcohol-related birth defects
alcohol-related neurodevelopment disorder
a neurobehavioral disorder associated with prenatal alcohol exposure
FAS is a severe form of the condition. People with FAS may have problems with their vision, hearing, memory, attention span, and abilities to learn and communicate. While the defects vary from one person to another, the damage is often permanent.
When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, some of that alcohol in the mother's blood passes across the placenta to the fetus. The body of a developing fetus doesn’t breakdown alcohol the same way as an adult does. The alcohol is more concentrated in the fetus, and it can prevent enough nutrition and oxygen from getting to the fetus’s vital organs.
Damage can be done in the first weeks especially in a situation where the mother does not know she is pregnant.
Since fetal alcohol syndrome covers a wide range of problems, there are many possible symptoms. The severity of these symptoms ranges from mild to severe, and 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
low weight and height
lack of focus
delayed development and problems in thinking, speech, movement, and social skills
hearing and vision problems
kidney defects and abnormalities
deformed limbs or fingers