FASD: Problems Related to Alcohol Exposure Before Birth

FASDThe consumption of alcohol while pregnant can result in myriad of consequences for the baby. The risks of developmental disorders associated with such behavior are greater than many believe and are, in fact, a more common occurrence than ever thought before. A new study has found that as many as 5 percent of children may have some type of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), higher estimates than those found in previous research, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Researchers found that the number of children living with some form of FASD is between 2.4 percent and 4.8 percent, HealthDay reports. The range of problems covered under FASD, some of which are lifelong, include:

  • Physical Disabilities
  • Mental Disabilities
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Behavioral Disabilities

“FASD is an umbrella term covering the full spectrum of permanent lifelong conditions, ranging from mild to severe, and encompassing a broad variety of physical defects and cognitive, behavioral, emotional and adaptive functioning deficits,” said Dr. Janet Williams, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. “As we have better methodology, we’re getting closer to the real prevalence, the real problem, and we need to stop the root cause of the problem.”

The most severe type of FASD is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which is characterized by growth retardation, structural brain abnormalities and specific facial characteristics. The researchers determined that between six and nine of every 1,000 children had fetal alcohol syndrome and between 11 and 17 per 1,000 children had partial fetal alcohol syndrome.

“Knowing not to drink during pregnancy and not doing so are two different things,” particularly before a woman finds out she is pregnant, said lead researcher Philip May, a professor of public health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The study appears in the journal Pediatrics.