Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a birth defect caused by heavy alcohol consumption during pregnancy. It is characterized by growth retardation, facial and neural abnormalities as well as malformations of other organ systems. Maternal risk for giving birth to a child with FAS is known to vary substantially by population and that the risk also varies between individuals.
Alcohol and its primary metabolite, acetaldehyde, are known tissue toxins which may interfere directly with cellular growth and metabolism. When a pregnant woman consumes alcohol, it is carried to all her organs and tissues including the placenta. The placenta functions to protect the fetus and provides nourishment from the mother to the fetus. Alcohol is able to cross the placental membrane and is then transported directly to all developing tissues of the fetus.
These adverse effects of alcohol on the developing fetus are characterized by an array of disorders, termed Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). They include structural anomalies as well as behavioral and neuro-cognitive disabilities. Children at the severe end of the spectrum are defined as having the fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).
For the Mother:
When planning a pregnancy, abstain from drinking any alcohol,
If you do not plan to fall pregnant and abstain from drinking alcohol, use effective birth control,
Do not consume any alcohol during pregnancy,
Stop drinking immediately if you realize that you are pregnant,
It is essential to gain sufficient weight during your pregnancy,
Eat a varied and balanced diet, with special attention to food sources rich in folate, iron, calcium and vitamin C.
Protect your breastfeeding baby from alcohol by abstinence, or by planning the intake of modest amounts (1-2 drinks per week). Allow enough time for alcohol to be metabolized and excreted (usually 2-4 hours) before the infant’s next feed.