Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: Risk, Symptoms and Treatment

Last updated 22 Aug 2019 . 1 min read

fetal alcohol syndrome fetal alcohol syndrome

There are some important do’s and don'ts that every pregnant woman is expected to follow during her pregnancy. A healthy pregnancy diet and a healthy lifestyle are essential for an expecting mother.

Complete abstinence from consuming alcohol is one of the most important things that a pregnant woman should do.

Alcohol consumption during pregnancy is hazardous for both the mother and the baby and even a little exposure of the fetus to alcohol during pregnancy can cause serious and irreversible developmental deformities.

What is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a very dangerous consequence of alcohol abuse during pregnancy. It is a condition comprised of numerous physical, mental and behavioral disorders which occur in children born to mothers who consumed alcohol during their pregnancy.

Exposure to alcohol before birth can harm the development of tissues and organs and cause permanent brain damage in the baby.

What causes Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?

When an expecting mother drinks alcohol it reaches her baby too. Alcohol easily passes through the placenta and reaches the fetus. Fetus metabolizes alcohol very slowly and the alcohol gets concentrated and blocks the oxygen from reaching the vital organs of the baby causing serious developmental damages like slow physical growth, impaired facial features, poor memory, poor impulse control, aggression/depression etc.

How much alcohol is safe?

No amount of alcohol consumed during pregnancy is safe.

The risk of a fetus developing (FAS) increases if the mother is a heavy drinker.

Alcohol consumption is hazardous for the fetus, not just in the first trimester, but at any point of time during pregnancy.

Risk factors Involved in Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Sometimes, an accidental exposure may happen while the mother is still unaware of her pregnancy in the initial weeks.  


There is a high chance that you could put your baby at risk of developing FAS even before you realize you're pregnant.

Don't drink alcohol if 

  • You're pregnant.
  • You think you might be pregnant.
  • You're trying to get pregnant.

Ask your partner to help you if you feel like you cannot cope up with the situation or do it alone.

Symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

A child with FAS can present with the following symptoms -

Physical Defects

  • Slow physical growth.
  • Small head circumference.
  • Small brain size.
  • Heart defects.
  • Impaired facial features.
  • Distinctive facial features -  small eyes, an exceptionally thin upper lip, a short upturned nose.
  • Deformed in limbs and fingers.
  • Deformed of joints.
  • Vision and hearing difficulties.
  • Defects in kidney and bones.

Brain and CNS Defects

  • Poor memory.
  • Poor coordination.
  • Delayed speech.
  • Learning disorders.
  • Intellectual disabilities.
  • Difficulty in reasoning and problem-solving.
  • Poor coordination.
  • Poor balance.
  • Poor judgment.
  • Rapid mood swings.

Social And Behaviour Issue

  • Problem in social interactions.
  • Difficulty in communication.
  • Trouble getting along with others.
  • Poor impulse control.
  • Trouble adapting in social situations.
  • Difficulty in task and time management.
  • Difficulty in learning social skills.

Other Complications due to FAS

  • Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Aggression.
  • Inappropriate social conduct.
  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Eating disorders.
  • Problems staying in or completing school.
  • Problems with independent living.
  • Problems in employment.
  • Inappropriate sexual behaviors.

Prevention from FASD

FAS is preventable if you steer clear of alcoholic drinks or things which contain alcohol completely.

  • Don't consume alcohol if you are trying to get pregnant.
  • If you're sexually active and aren't using contraceptives, stay away from alcohol as it can harm your baby even during the first few weeks of unplanned pregnancy.
  • Avoid alcohol completely throughout your pregnancy.

(Also Read - 14 Tips to have a Healthy Pregnancy)

Diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Based on the symptoms listed above and a history of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, If you suspect that your child has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, get an early assessment done by your Pediatrician straight away.

Early assessment will help your doctors understand your baby's symptoms and create a treatment plan specific to your child's needs.

FASD Treatment (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder)

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is irreversible and incurable. However, symptomatic relief can be provided to those suffering from it to make their lives better.

If the condition is caught early in childhood, symptoms can be treated very effectively. Earlier the intervention, better the treatment.

Seek Medical Help

If you are pregnant, have alcohol addiction issues and it's hard for you to stop drinking meet your doctor immediately. Your doctor will ensure that your addiction issues are addressed properly.

Meet your doctor if you are planning a pregnancy so that your drinking problem can be managed beforehand.

If you're a casual drinker then avoid alcohol at all costs while you're pregnant or planning a pregnancy.

If you're having unprotected sex, chances are that it can result in an unplanned pregnancy. Try to stay away from alcohol during your childbearing years.

Don't be shy regarding your addiction issues. Share your experiences and difficulties with your doctor. Trust your doctor, follow your medical professional’s advice as your pregnancy and your baby's health depends on it.

5 Celebrities with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Celebrities are looked upon as highly influential and popular individuals in the society. They are famed for their looks, talents, money and a lavish lifestyle.

However huge their fame is, they are ultimately human and sometimes suffer from diseases or disorders too. It is just that they have got resources to address them earlier. But with the advent of technology and connectivity, you can also understand these disorders pretty early either by doing your own research on google or joining communities like Sheroes and clearing your doubts with experts and members in the community.

Here are some celebrities that you didn't know had been living with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome -


Known for his Greek god-like looks and crazy dancing skills, Hrithik Roshan has been rumored to have FAS.

Hrithik Roshan confirmed that he had speech and learning difficulties throughout his childhood. He even has an extra thumb which he calls beautifully imperfect.

Rumors are that his extra thumb is a result of alcohol exposure due to his mother's alcohol consumption during the pregnancy.

Although, these rumors are yet not confirmed by this hot Bollywood star himself.


Famous US politician Bernie Sanders has been rumored to be among the millions of Americans who are a victim of the (FAS).

He is known to be suffering from different illnesses including gout, hernias, diverticulitis, and a cyst on his vocal cord.

This famous US politician also campaigns and speaks for the people suffering from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.


Famous Hollywood star Reese Witherspoon who is known for her beauty and amazing acting skills suffers from some classic signs of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Rumors are that her mother was an alcoholic during her pregnancy. She has a thin upper lip, malformed skull and difficulty learning.


Jim Carrey has spoken about his mother's alcohol drinking while she was pregnant during interviews and how it has changed his life.

Jim Carrey suffers from joint deformities, involuntary facial contortions, and uncontrollable sporadic seizures.

However, he has never let all this come in his way of becoming a successful comedian, actor, and inspiration to millions of his fans.


Harry Potter claims that he still faces trouble tying his shoelaces.

Famous Hollywood star Daniel Radcliffe has been diagnosed with partial dyslexia, a learning disorder that involves difficulty in reading. He also had learning issues throughout his childhood.

It is rumored that his dyslexia is a result of  FAS-associated with maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

Emi Hyder

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