Background: Maternal alcohol use during pregnancy leads to fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) in their children. FASD is characterized by typical facial features, growth retardation, intellectual dysfunction and behavioral problems.
Justification: Alcohol is neurotoxic to the brain during the developmental stage. Behavioral problems in children with FASD start at an early age and progress to adulthood. It is an important preventable cause of intellectual dysfunction and behavioral problems. This article reviews current prevalence, clinical features, pathogenesis and differential diagnosis of FASD. It also highlights the need for physicians to be aware of this condition.
Search strategy: Articles were searched on the internet using fetal alcohol syndrome, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, women and alcohol. Following links were used to locate journals; EBSCO, OVID, Science Direct, PubMed and NIAAA.
Main conclusions: Alcohol consumption during pregnancy can lead to a spectrum of deficits. Though physical features are essential to make the diagnosis of FAS, it is important to note that neurocognitive and behavioural deficits can be present in the absence of physical features (alcohol related neurodevelopmental disorder or ARND). Because there is no known safe amount of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, abstinence from alcohol for women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy must be strongly advised.