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May 25, 2024

Where Every Family Matters

More Fetal Alcohol Disorders Than We Know

Have you heard of Fetal Alcohol SPECTRUM Disorders? They are more prevalent than previously thought.

"I had a glass of wine every now and then after my first trimester," your sister-in-law might coax you. "And everything's fine with Riley." But messages like this can confuse pregnant women who want to deliver a healthy baby. Pregnant women know they should stay away from drinking alcohol in pregnancy. That doesn't mean that every now and then … But wait.      Today there's news that as many as one in 10 children in some U.S. localities may have some type of disability related to their mother's drinking while pregnant. The number reveals that there may be a large amount of children born with unrecognized disabilities.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

While you've heard of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), you may not have heard of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is related to heavy drinking during pregnancy resulting in physical and cognitive impairment for a child. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder includes all disabilities and conditions resulting from any alcohol exposure in the womb.     

New research out of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill suggests that 3.1% to 9.9% of children throughout the U.S. are now on the FAS spectrum. This study assessed 6,639 first graders from four areas around the country for four attributes of FASD:

• Known prenatal exposure to alcohol

• Difficulties in neurological or behavioral development

• Stunted or atypical physical growth

• Facial features indicating prenatal alcohol exposure (small eye width; a smoothed area between the nose and upper lip; a thin upper lip)

Researchers found 222 children with FASD, while only two of the children had been diagnosed previously.

The Upshot

Many more children are impacted by their mother's drinking during pregnancy than previously known. The researches wrote there's "mounting evidence that harmful fetal alcohol exposure is common in the United States today." Widespread research shows that drinking any amount of alcohol during pregnancy is a risk. There is no known "safe" amount, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Learn More About FAS and FASD here.

About the Author

Susan Swindell Day, Editor

Susan Swindell Day is the editor in chief of Nashville Parent and the mom of four amazing kids.