Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders



Alcohol readily crosses the placenta and may disrupt fetal development. Harm from prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) is determined by the dose, pattern, timing and duration of exposure, fetal and maternal genetics, maternal nutrition, concurrent substance use, and epigenetic responses. A safe dose of alcohol use during pregnancy has not been established. PAE can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), which are characterized by neurodevelopmental impairment with or without facial dysmorphology, congenital anomalies and poor growth. FASD are a leading preventable cause of birth defects and developmental disability. The prevalence of FASD in 76 countries is >1% and is high in individuals living in out-of-home care or engaged in justice and mental health systems. The social and economic efects of FASD are profound, but the diagnosis is often missed or delayed and receives little public recognition. Future research should be informed by people living with FASD and be guided by cultural context, seek consensus on diagnostic criteria and evidence-based treatments, and describe the pathophysiology and lifelong efects of FASD. Imperatives include reducing stigma, equitable access to services, improved quality of life for people with FASD and FASD prevention in future generations.


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Author : Svetlana Popova, Michael E. Charness, Larry Burd, Andi Crawford, H. Eugene Hoyme, Raja A. S. Mukherjee, Edward P. Riley & Elizabeth J. Elliott