There are 3 severities of alcohol impact on the baby:
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is an umbrella term describing the range of effects that can occur in an individual whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These effects may include physical, mental, behavioral, and/or learning disabilities with possible lifelong implications.
Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND) and Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD)
ARBD and ARND can occur in babies of women who drink moderately or lightly during pregnancy.
Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND) describes the functional or mental impairments linked to prenatal alcohol exposure, and Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD) describes malformations in the skeletal and major organ systems.
What are the primary characteristics of FAS, ARND, and ARBD?
Individuals with FAS have a distinct pattern of facial abnormalities, growth deficiency and evidence of central nervous system dysfunction. In addition to mental retardation, individuals with FAS, ARND and ARBD may have other neurological deficits such as poor motor skills and hand-eye coordination. They may also have a complex pattern of behavioral and learning problems, including difficulties with memory, attention, and judgment.
Prenatal alcohol exposure does not always result in FAS—although there is no known safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Most individuals affected by alcohol exposure before birth do not have the characteristic facial abnormalities and growth retardation identified with FAS, yet they have the brain and other impairments that are just as significant.
A 2001 study by researchers at Wayne State University in Detroit found that 6- and 7-year-old children of mothers who had as little as one drink a week during pregnancy were more likely than children of non-drinkers to have behavior problems, such as aggressive and delinquent behaviors. These researchers found that children whose mothers drank any alcohol during pregnancy were more than three times as likely as unexposed children to demonstrate delinquent behaviors.
Researchers at the University of Washington at Seattle followed to age 14 a group of middle-class children whose mothers were “social drinkers,” who drank an average of about two drinks per day. At age 7 years, when given intelligence tests, these children scored seven points lower than the average for all children in the study. At age 14, alcohol-exposed children remained more likely to have learning problems, especially with mathematics and memory, and behavioral difficulties, including attention problems. Other researchers also have reported behavioral problems in alcohol-exposed children including hyperactivity, impulsivity, poor social and communication skills and alcohol and drug use.
How often do FAS, ARND and ARBD Occur?
As many as 12,000 infants are born each year with FAS and three times as many have ARND or ARBD. FAS, ARND and ARBD affect more newborns every year than Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome combined.
How can alcohol-related effects be prevented?
FAS, ARND and ARBD are 100% preventable when a woman completely abstains from alcohol during her pregnancy. NOFAS prevents alcohol-related effects through public awareness and education, and increasing access to prenatal health care. Another key to prevention is to screen all women of reproductive age for alcohol problems and to use appropriate strategies, such as treatment for alcohol problems, to eliminate drinking before conception.
How does a mother’s drinking affect her unborn child?
When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, so does her baby; through the blood vessels in the placenta, the mother’s blood supplies the developing baby with nourishment and oxygen. If the mother drinks alcohol, the alcohol enters her bloodstream and then, through the placenta, enters the blood supply of the growing baby.
Alcohol is a teratogen, a substance known to be toxic to human development. Depending on the amount, timing and pattern of use, if alcohol reaches the growing baby’s blood supply, it can interfere with healthy development.
If a woman drinks wine, beer or distilled spirits when she is pregnant, her baby could be affected. There is no known safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy.