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Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

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Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a diagnosis of a collection of specific defects as a result of maternal use of alcohol during pregnancy. Children with this condition may have:
  • facial abnormalities;
  • heart or limb defects;
  • growth retardation;
  • infantile irritability;
  • hypotonia;
  • fine motor impairment;
  • gross motor delays;
  • attention deficit disorders;
  • hyperactivity; and
  • poor judgement skills and impulse control.

Fetal alcohol spectum disorders (FASD) is a term, not a diagnosis, which includes FAS and a broader range of physicial, behavioral, and cognitive effects. Three diagnoses, other than FAS, were introduced by the Institute of Medicine in 1996:
  • alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND) which includes behavioral and congnitive effects;
  • alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD) which includes physical birth defects; and
  • partial FAS which includes some but not all symptoms of FAS. [American: 2000]

Social functioning is impaired as is the capacity for generalizing from one setting to another. Adults with FAS/FASD who have had no intervention continue to be challenged with memory deficits, impaired concentration, cognitive deficits, impaired judgment, inattention, oppositional behavior, and maladaptive social functioning. No "safe level" of alcohol use exists and increased alcohol consumption increases risks.


Information & Support

For Professionals

FASD: Guidelines for Referral and Diagnosis (CDC)(PDF Document 612 KB)
The detailed guide provides information about diagnostic criteria, differential diagnoses, referral considerations, services, and prevention. Developed by the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in coordination with the National Task Force on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Effects which includes the American Academy of Pediatrics and other groups.

Understanding Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders(PDF Document 182 KB)
This fact sheet from the Substance Aubse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA) provides an overview of FAS, diagnostic information, and more.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Center for Excellence
Information, publications, training events, and more from the Substance Aubse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA). Available en Espanol.

FASD 4-Digit Diagnostic Code
From the FAS Diagnostic & Prevention Network, information about and a link to the guide to help improve accuracy of diagnoses for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Genetics in Primary Care Institute (GPCI)
A collaboration among the Health Resources & Services Administration, the Maternal & Child Health Bureau, and the American Academy of Pediatrics aimed at increasing collaboration in the care of children with known or suspected genetic disorders. Includes health supervision and management guidelines, and other useful resources.

For Parents and Patients

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, CDC
An overview of FAS, definitions, frequently asked questions, fact sheets, and more from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available en Espanol.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome info, Mayo Clinic
Provides an overview of FAS, symptoms, risk factors, and support information.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (MedlinePlus)
Provides an overview of FAS and links to more information about symptoms, diagnosis, research, and more; from the National Library of Medicine.

National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
This non-profit organization provides information about FAS including patient education materials, suggestions for living with FAS, and more.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Strategies and Interventions(PDF Document 20 KB)
Strategies to help parents raise children with FASD from the Minnesota Adoption Support and Preservation program.

Therapies That Help Children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)(PDF Document 14 KB)
Fact sheet that identified how occupational, physical, and speech therapies can help children with FASD from the Minnesota Adoption Support and Preservation program.

Utah Birth Defect Network
Information about birth defects, prevention, and services from the Utah Department of Health.

Utah Fetal Alcohol Coalition
The UFAC is a coalition of several community groups, state agencies, and families that provide training and outreach or families and professionals.

Practice Guidelines

Bertrand J, Floyd LL, Weber MK.
Guidelines for identifying and referring persons with fetal alcohol syndrome.
MMWR Recomm Rep. 2005;54(RR-11):1-14. PubMed abstract / Full Text


Breastfeeding Information & Support

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Developmental Pediatrics

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Local Support Groups, Disability/Diag

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Pediatric Cardiology

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Pediatric Neurology

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Pregnancy-related, Other

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For other services related to this condition, browse our Services categories or search our database.

Helpful Articles

Buchi KF, Zone S, Langheinrich K, Varner MW.
Changing prevalence of prenatal substance abuse in Utah.
Obstet Gynecol. 2003;102(1):27-30. PubMed abstract

McFarlane A, Rajani H.
Rural FASD diagnostic services model: Lakeland Centre for fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
Can J Clin Pharmacol. 2007;14(3):e301-6. PubMed abstract / Full Text

Warren KR, Foudin LL.
Alcohol-related birth defects--the past, present, and future.
Alcohol Res Health. 2001;25(3):153-8. PubMed abstract / Full Text

Wattendorf DJ, Muenke M.
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
Am Fam Physician. 2005;72(2):279-82, 285. PubMed abstract / Full Text

May PA, Gossage JP, Kalberg WO, Robinson LK, Buckley D, Manning M, Hoyme HE.
Prevalence and epidemiologic characteristics of FASD from various research methods with an emphasis on recent in-school studies.
Dev Disabil Res Rev. 2009;15(3):176-92. PubMed abstract


Author: Becky Kroll - 3/2008
Reviewing Author: Alfred Romeo, RN, PhD - 4/2011
Content Last Updated: 4/2011

Page Bibliography

American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Substance Abuse and Committee on Children With Disabilities.
Fetal alcohol syndrome and alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorders.
Pediatrics. 2000;106(2 Pt 1):358-61. PubMed abstract / Full Text