What is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is an umbrella term that describes the range of effects that can occur in a baby whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy.  FASD may include physical, mental, behavioral, and/or learning disabilities with possible lifelong implications.

What Are the Effects of FASD?

The effects of FASD vary widely from person to person. For many people with an FASD, brain damage is the most serious effect. It may result in cognitive and behavior problems.[1]

Cognitive and behavior problems might include learning, memory, attention span, communication, vision or hearing, difficulties with math, judgment, and poor impulse control.  Individuals might have a mix of these problems.   Early identification and appropriate intervention/treatment improves an individual’s ability to succeed at home, school, work, and in social situations that may arise at different stages of their lives.

Different terms are used to describe FASDs, depending on the type of symptoms.[2]

  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS): FAS represents the severe end of the FASD spectrum. People with FAS might have abnormal facial features, growth problems, and central nervous system (CNS) problems.
  • Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND): People with ARND might have intellectual disabilities and problems with behavior and learning. They often do not have any physical signs of a disability.
  • 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.

Quick Facts

  • FASD is 100 % preventable.
  • No amount or form of alcohol is safe to drink during pregnancy.
  • FASD is the most common preventable cause of mental retardation.
  • The effects of FASD are lifelong.
  • Each year in the U.S. as many as 40,000 babies are born with FASD.
  • The cost of caring for one child with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is estimated to be $2 million over the child’s lifetime.

In Hawaii

  • There are approximately 18,900 live births each year in Hawaii.
  • In 2009-2011, 46.1% of all live births (approximately 8,700 per year) in Hawaii were the result of unintended pregnancies.
  • 6.9% (approximately 1,300 per year) of women who gave birth in Hawaii in 2009-2011 reported that they drank alcohol in the last trimester of their most recent pregnancy.
  • 1.2% (approximately 200 per year) of women who gave birth in Hawaii in 2009-2011 reported binge drinking in the last trimester of their most recent pregnancy. Binge drinking for women is defined as drinking 4 or more alcoholic drinks in one sitting.[3]