“Stop and think. If you're pregnant, don't drink.”
Welcome to the SAMHSA Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Center for Excellence
Web site. The FASD Center is a Federal initiative devoted to preventing and treating
FASD. This Web site provides information and
resources about FASD. We also provide
materials you can use to raise awareness about FASD. Additionally, The
Center is dedicated to providing
training, technical assistance, and conference/event speakers.
Definition: What is FASD?
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are a group of conditions that can occur
in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These effects can include
physical problems and problems with behavior and learning. Often, a person with
an FASD has a mix of these problems.
The term FASD is not meant for use as a clinical diagnosis, but rather to
refer to the range of effects that can happen to a person whose mother drank alcohol
during pregnancy. These conditions can affect each person in different ways, and
can range from mild to severe.
Cause and Prevention: How Does FASD Happen?
FASDs are caused by a woman drinking alcohol during pregnancy. There is no known
amount of alcohol that is safe to drink while pregnant. There is also no safe time
to drink during pregnancy and no safe kind of alcohol to drink while pregnant. To
prevent FASD, a woman should not drink alcohol while she is pregnant, or when becoming
pregnant is possible. This is because a woman can get pregnant and not know for
several weeks or more (half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned).
Terminology: What Are the Types of FASD?
Different terms are used to describe FASD, depending on the symptoms.
- Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS): FAS represents the severe end of the FASD spectrum.
Fetal death is the most extreme outcome from drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
People with FAS might have abnormal facial features, growth problems, and central
nervous system (CNS) problems. People with FAS can have problems with learning,
memory, attention span, communication, vision, or hearing. They might have a mix
of these problems. People with FAS often have a hard time in school and difficulty
in social situations.
- Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND): People with ARND might
have intellectual disabilities and problems with behavior and learning. They might
do poorly in school and have difficulties with math, memory, attention, judgment,
and poor impulse control.
- Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD): People with ARBD might have problems
with the heart, kidneys, or bones, or with hearing. They might have a mix of these.
The term fetal alcohol effects (FAE) was previously used to describe intellectual
disabilities and problems with behavior and learning in a person whose mother drank
alcohol during pregnancy. In 1996, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) replaced FAE
with ARND and ARBD.
Prevalence: How Many Cases of FASD Are There?
Each year in the United States, an estimated 40,000 babies are born with an FASD,
making these disorders more common than new diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder
(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010), and a leading preventable cause
of intellectual disabilities (Abel & Sokol, 1987). Recent in-school studies suggest
that cases of FASD among live births in the U.S., previously reported as approximately
9 per 1,000 (Sampson et al., 1997) could, in reality, be closer to 50 per 1,000
(May, 2009). In addition, recent retrospective analyses of hospital admissions data
indicate that under-reporting of alcohol misuse or harm by women may further disguise
true prevalence rates (Morleo et al., 2011).
Financial Impact: What Does FASD Cost?
The cost factor of raising a child with an FASD is significant. Amendah and colleagues
(2011) found that, for a child with identified FAS, incurred health costs were nine
times higher than for children without an FASD. Lupton and colleagues (2004) have
estimated the lifetime cost of caring for a person with FAS to be at least $2 million,
and the overall annual cost of FASD to the U.S. healthcare system to be more than