Drinking While Pregnant: What Is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?

fetal alcohol syndromeFor years medical professionals have recommending that women avoid consuming alcohol during pregnancy. However it seems a lot of women aren’t listening. According to figures released in the US, the number of women drinking during pregnancy increased by a factor between 1991 and 1995. These days over 50% of women aged between 15 and 44 drink when pregnant.

In another study of pregnant ladies, researchers found that 10-15% of women reportedly had drunk alcohol “recently” when questioned. In other words, despite the repeated warnings from doctors for decades – together with the numerous warning signs found on alcohol bottles around the world – women continue to drink during pregnancy.

But who is right? What are the real odds of suffering from complications, and what can these look like for your unborn child?

Introducing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is the name given to a range of symptoms among neonates and babies whose mothers have consumed alcohol during pregnancy. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, also known as FAS, occurs when alcohol passes across the placenta from the mother to the infant and cause a broad range of long-lived and potentially life-altering health problems. It is currently observed in up to 2 in every 1000 children born today, so should be considered a common problem.

But what are the symptoms of FAS that mothers should be aware of if they consider drinking during pregnancy?

Growth Deficiency

The first factor that is noticeable in babies affected by FAS are deficiencies in growth. They may, for example, suffer from a smaller brain at birth than comparable children. They may also suffer from bone damage and other unpleasant physical deformities that can plague them throughout their life. In many cases such deficiencies can affect victims throughout their life and certainly should not be considered something that a child will grow out of.

While many of these growth deficiencies can be easily observed with the naked eye, the effects can also go unnoticed in some situations. For example another common symptom of fetal alcohol syndrome is that it can significantly affect the immune system. By affecting the growth rates of key parts of the immune system, the baby’s immunity may be compromised, increasing the odds of them contracting all manner of childhood ailments.

Mental Disorders

Even more worrying than these physical growth deficiencies are the effects of alcohol on the central nervous system. In essence, excessive drinking during pregnancy has been shown to be a major contributing factor to brain damage of varying degrees.

Whilst these disorders can result in problems for children in learning and development, they can even be felt in adulthood. ADHD, depression and an increased preponderance to alcohol addiction are all common symptoms of an individual that suffers from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Facial Features

Oddly, these two elements may often be combined. It seems that brain damage caused by FAS may sometimes be seen in the form of unusual facial features. For example, FAS-affected children may display smaller eye openings than normal, a short nose, thin lips and – most commonly of all – a flattened philtrum.

Scientists claim that these facial features are indicative of brain damage as a result of maternal alcohol consumption. While every baby displaying these features also displays patterns of brain damage, just because your baby does not display one or more of these facial features does not necessarily mean that no brain damage has been sustained.


It is fair to say that Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a thoroughly unpleasant and totally unnecessary list of symptoms that can affect one into adulthood. Due to the extreme effects and the ease of controlling it, it is clear that the medical practitioners have a point. Avoiding alcohol during pregnancy is certainly the safest option for eliminating the risk of FAS.

If you are hoping to become pregnant shortly yet believe you will struggle to give up drinking due to an addiction or dependency you should consider seeking help in giving up alcohol. Doing so will give your baby the very best chance of a healthy future.

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