Medbroadcast  Powered by MediResource

 Browse alphabetically
Family & Child Health
Men's Health
Women's Health
Seniors' Health
Ankylosing Spondylitis
Arthritis (Rheumatoid)
Atrial Fibrillation
Baby Health
Back Health
Bladder (Overactive)
Brain Health
Childhood Vaccinations
Crohn's & Colitis
Cold and Flu
Cosmetic Procedures
Depression NEW!
Digestive Health
Ear Health
Eating Disorders
Eye Health
Flu (Seasonal)
Healthy Skin
High Blood Pressure
Kidney Health
Low Testosterone NEW!
Lung Health
Medications and your Health
Mental Health
Multiple Sclerosis NEW!
Natural and Complementary Therapy
Oral Care
Osteoarthritis of the Knee NEW!
Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA)
Seasonal Health
Sexual Health
Sleep Health
Stroke Risk Reduction
Weight Management
Workplace Health
Yeast Infection
All health channels

Ask an Expert
Clinical Trials
Find a Specialist
Health features

Condition Info Drug Info Tests and Procedures Natural Products Ask an Expert Support Groups Clinical Trials
Home Bookmark Page Send to a Friend Sante Chez Nous Subscribe
Condition Info > F > Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Effects
Please enter the condition name


Search by first letter


Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Effects


In this condition factsheet:

The Facts on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Effects

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and fetal alcohol effects (FAE) are conditions associated with drinking alcohol during pregnancy. FAS causes a variety of mental, physical, and developmental disabilities in the baby. FAE is a milder form of FAS.

If a pregnant woman drinks any alcohol at any time during pregnancy, the alcohol crosses the placenta to the fetus. Alcohol damages the developing cells of the fetus. The brain and central nervous system are particularly sensitive to alcohol and can suffer permanent damage.

Any amount can have some effect, so there is no minimum amount of alcohol in pregnancy that is safe. The developing fetus can't break down the alcohol as quickly as an adult, so its exposure to alcohol is actually higher than the mother's.

Causes of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Effects

FAS and FAE are caused during pregnancy by the mother drinking alcohol. Alcohol damages the developing brain and nervous system of the baby, leading to mental, physical, and developmental problems.

The following factors affect whether FAS or FAE will occur and how severe the condition may be:

  • timing of alcohol use during the pregnancy
  • amount and frequency of alcohol consumption
  • the mother's general health
  • resources available to the mother

Consuming alcohol in any form during pregnancy is dangerous to the fetus. Alcohol is officially classified as a known teratogen, which means it can cause birth defects in the fetus. The more alcohol a pregnant woman drinks, the greater the risk of the fetus developing FAS or FAE. Drinking early in pregnancy may cause changes in the facial features, heart and other organs, bones, and the central nervous system. In Canada, about 15% of women use alcohol during pregnancy.

FAS occurs in about 1 of every 500 to 3,000 live births each year. It is also estimated that about 1,000 babies will be born with FAE each year. The lack of awareness of the effects of alcohol as a teratogen on a developing fetus is one reason for the high incidence of FAS and FAE.

Symptoms and Complications of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Effects

A child who has FAS displays defects at birth or during development. The most common physical effects of FAS are:

  • central nervous system abnormalities (problems with brain development and behaviour)
  • a particular pattern of facial features (see below)
  • slower than average growth

Children who do not have all three characteristics listed above are said to have FAE.

Signs of central nervous system abnormalities include delayed development, behavioural problems, or learning disabilities and intellectual impairment. For example, children with FAS may develop the ability to speak or walk later than normal. Behavioural problems may include hyperactivity, nervousness, anxiety, and short attention spans.

Typical facial malformations features include short eye slits or drooping eyes, a thin upper lip, flattened cheekbones, and the absence of a distinct groove between the upper lip and nose.

A child with FAS or FAE may be smaller for their age than normal. At birth, the baby may be undersized or have a small head. Other defects include malformation of internal organs such as the heart, liver, and kidneys. Visual impairment and hearing problems may also exist.

Children with FAS are often naïve. With poor judgment and decision-making skills, they sometimes find themselves facing substance abuse and difficulties with the law later in life.



Did you find what you were looking for on our website? Please let us know.

 Search for information related to
Hot Topics - Bedwetting, Depression, Flu (Seasonal), Healthy Skin, Incontinence, Multiple Sclerosis, Psoriasis, Stroke Risk Reduction

Condition and disease information is written and reviewed by the MedBroadcast Clinical Team.

The contents of this site are for informational purposes only and are meant to be discussed with your physician or other qualified health care professional before being acted on. Never disregard any advice given to you by your doctor or other qualified health care professional. Always seek the advice of a physician or other licensed health care professional regarding any questions you have about your medical condition(s) and treatment(s). This site is not a substitute for medical advice.
© 1996 - 2015 MediResource Inc. - MediResource reaches millions of Canadians each year.