The dangers of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Daniela DiStefano
Shine from Yahoo! Canada
(Pascal Rondeau/Allsport)

Many know the dangers of consumer alcohol during pregnancy, but the lifelong effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome sometimes go unknown.

FAS is a disorder caused by the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. The prenatal alcohol exposure affects the development of the fetus, and causes lifelong complications.

It's a birth defect, which is 100 per cent preventable. Approximately one out of every 750 babies born in the United States each year is affected by FAS.

Effects can include permanent physical and neurological damage to varying degrees, including mental retardation. Defects that arise from the condition are irreversible, but early detection and prevention can reduce complications. 

Because an unborn baby cannot metabolize alcohol as quickly as a grown adult, it will have a higher blood-alcohol concentration than the mother consuming the alcohol.

As the alcohol circulates through the woman’s bloodstream it crosses the placenta and will reduce oxygen and the proper nutrients intended for the baby’s brain and organs.

In the most serious conditions, children with FAS will be unable to live independently as adults and will always require a caretaker.

[See also: What to eat and what to skip when you're pregnant]


Alcohol treatment is available at numerous rehabilitation centres for mothers who struggle with alcohol dependence. Common symptoms associated with fetal alcohol syndrome include:

Neurological Damage

- Poor Memory
- Anxiety
- Immaturity
- Problems with learning abstract concepts
- Difficulty focusing
- Overly friendly to strangers
- Poor judgment
- Impulsive Behaviour

Physical Damage

- Difficulty hearing
- Poor coordination
- Stunted or slowed growth
- Small eye openings
- Deformed bones and ligaments
- Small head size
- Heart complications
- Upturned nose
- Sunken nasal bridge
- Organ defects
- Thin upper lip
- Smooth area between upper lip and nose
- Small brain
- Deformity of fingers and toes

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