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Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

Alcohol is a direct toxin to the growing cells of a fetus, especially those in the central nervous system. Its presence in pregnancy causes birth defects by killing cells or preventing them from dividing properly. The damage lasts a lifetime.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) is a term describing the range of effects that can occur in a baby whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is the most severe form of the disease. Developing babies have the same blood alcohol level as their mothers but are unable to process the alcohol. How a child’s genes express themselves may be altered by alcohol.

Alcohol has a devastating impact on the brain. Children with FAS and FASD have smaller brains, certain physical characteristics, intellectual disabilities, behavioral problems and birth defects.

If you consume four or more drinks a day while pregnant, your baby likely will have fetal alcohol syndrome. One or more drinks a day during pregnancy leads to fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. According to the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, an estimated 40,000 newborns each year are affected by FAS and FASD, and have minor to major disabilities.

As a child with FAS or FASD gets older, problems with sleeping, paying attention, judgment, mental health and social behaviors are likely.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) is the leading cause of mental disabilities in the United States. Yet the conditions are 100 percent preventable. If you do not drink alcohol during pregnancy, your baby will not have FASD.

At Indiana University Health Medical Genetics, our extensive experience in diagnosing FASD and FAS combines with ongoing research at IU School of Medicine Indiana Alcohol Research Center to offer the most up-to-date treatments for these conditions.

Our affiliation with Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health gives you access to specialized care in clinical genetics at the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Clinic. The free Mother to Baby Hotline can answer your questions about alcohol exposure before and during pregnancy.

There is no cure for FAS and FASD but early intervention can lessen the effects of the condition. Research shows that when children are diagnosed before age 6, live in a loving and stable home environment, are removed from violence, and have access to special education and social services, they can more easily reach their full potential.

How We Can Help

How We Can Help

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Treatment Information

FASD affects individuals differently. In general, people with FASD need many health services including:


Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Locations & Physicians

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Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Support Services

Learn more about fetal alcohol spectrum disorders at these websites: