Prenatal exposure to alcohol can damage the developing fetus and is the leading preventable cause of birth defects and intellectual and neurodevelopmental disabilities. In 1973, fetal alcohol syndrome was first described as a specific cluster of birth defects resulting from alcohol exposure in utero. Subsequently, research unequivocally revealed that prenatal alcohol exposure causes a broad range of adverse developmental effects. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is the general term that encompasses the range of adverse effects associated with prenatal alcohol exposure. The diagnostic criteria for fetal alcohol syndrome are specific, and comprehensive efforts are ongoing to establish definitive criteria for diagnosing the other FASDs. A large and growing body of research has led to evidence-based FASD education of professionals and the public, broader prevention initiatives, and recommended treatment approaches based on the following premises:▪ Alcohol-related birth defects and developmental disabilities are completely preventable when pregnant women abstain from alcohol use.▪ Neurocognitive and behavioral problems resulting from prenatal alcohol exposure are lifelong.▪ Early recognition, diagnosis, and therapy for any condition along the FASD continuum can result in improved outcomes.▪ During pregnancy:◦no amount of alcohol intake should be considered safe;◦there is no safe trimester to drink alcohol;◦all forms of alcohol, such as beer, wine, and liquor, pose similar risk; and◦binge drinking poses dose-related risk to the developing fetus.
Copyright © 2015 by the American Academy of Pediatrics.