Genesee County Health Department
Better Life Through Better Health
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) refers to a group of physical and mental
birth defects in children, caused by alcohol use at conception or during
pregnancy. A significant number of children described as having learning
disabilities are believed to suffer from the milder form of FAS, known
as fetal alcohol effects or FAE.
Some experts believe that the incidence of FAS is as high as 3 in
10,000 births nationwide. Cases of FAE are estimated to be twice as
high. Recorded cases of FAS more than tripled between 1979 and 1992,
according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One problem
in the recording of FAS and FAE cases is the knowledge level of health
care workers and their ability to identify the symptoms correctly.
Symptoms of possible FAS may include a
small body size, lower birth weight, facial abnormalities, a curved
spine, a small head and organ defects. There may be slower than normal
development and failure to catch up, limited joint movement, finger and
toe deformities and central nervous system problems, such as a small
brain, mental retardation and poor coordination.
No amount of any kind of alcohol is safe for a pregnant woman to
drink. Even one drink of beer, wine, or a wine cooler can pose a risk to
an unborn baby. Data suggests that about 20 percent of women drink
alcohol during pregnancy, despite the immense risk. If you know someone
who is pregnant, talk to them about preventing FAS and FAE.
For more information about FAS/FAE call the Genesee County Health
Department at (810) 257-3201.