What is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)?
FASD is a diagnostic term for severe neurodevelopmental impairments (you may see these as difficulties with physical activities, language, memory, learning and behaviour) that result from brain damage caused by alcohol exposure before birth.
- The effects may not be seen at birth.
- All people with FASD will have damage to different parts of the brain which can cause structural (e.g. small head) and functional impairments which can be physical, cognitive and behavioural.
- Some people with FASD will have other birth defects such as heart and eye problems.
- Although the use of ‘fetal’ may imply that it only relates to babies, FASD has lifelong consequences and can be diagnosed in children, young people and adults.
- People with FASD will have strengths and difficulties.
- Some people with FASD will have distinctive facial features, but most do not.
- FASD occurs in all parts of Australian society where alcohol is consumed.
- FASD is a social issue not just a medical condition.
- No level of maternal alcohol consumption at any time during pregnancy can be guaranteed to be completely ‘safe’ or ‘no risk’ for the developing fetus.
- Some women are at higher risk of drinking and need support from partners, friends, family, health professionals and drug and alcohol workers to stop drinking alcohol when they are pregnant.
It is important to get an early diagnosis so that early interventions and support can be provided. With the right support and early interventions, good outcomes across a range of life goals are more likely to be achieved. A circle of collaboration between health professionals, the family, school and service providers ensures the best opportunities for people with FASD.
Read some of the common myths about alcohol use and pregnancy here.
Every Moment Matters
With funding from the Australian Government Department of Health, FARE (the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education) has launched Every Moment Matters, a campaign about the importance of alcohol-free pregnancy and breastfeeding to help prevent the risks of FASD. Every Moment Matters supports and empowers Australians to stop drinking alcohol through all the moments of pregnancy, right from the moment they start trying to get pregnant. Visit the campaign website for information and resources.
Find more about FASD