Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

Alcohol and pregnancy don't mix

Image from SAMHSA for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders awarenessA baby exposed to alcohol before birth is at risk for physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities. These disabilities are known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). FASDs affect up to one in 20 children in the United States.  No amount of alcohol use is known to be safe during pregnancy. Exposure to alcohol from any type of beverage, including beer and wine, is unsafe for developing babies at every stage of pregnancy. 

Impact on babies

During pregnancy, a developing baby is exposed to the same concentration of alcohol as the pregnant woman. This can impact the baby's development. Fetal alcohol syndrome is one of the many FASDs. Fetal alcohol syndrome is characterized by growth deficiencies, central nervous system disabilities, and specific facial characteristics. 

Prenatal alcohol exposure increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity, and sudden infant death syndrome.

Completely preventable

To prevent FASDs make a plan for a healthy baby - don’t drink any alcohol if you are pregnant or could become pregnant. A woman often does not know she is pregnant for up to four to six weeks after conception. In the U.S., nearly half of all pregnancies are unplanned. If you become pregnant, stop drinking alcohol. Every day matters. Because brain growth takes place throughout pregnancy, the sooner a woman stops drinking the safer it will be for her and her baby.

Women in Wisconsin who are between the ages of 18 and 44 binge drink and drink more heavily than women in the rest of the U.S. Two out of three women in Wisconsin who recently had a baby reported they drank in the three months before pregnancy, and about one in 12 reported drinking in the last three months of pregnancy.

Support is available

Wisconsin Addiction Recovery Helpline 211Pregnant women or women trying to get pregnant should talk with their obstetrician, pediatrician, nurses, and other health care providers to understand the risks of alcohol use and to make the best choices for the health of their baby. In Wisconsin, pregnant women are given priority for substance use treatment. Call 211 or 833-944-4673 to find a local treatment center or visit the Wisconsin Addiction Recovery Helpline website.

Last Revised: July 14, 2021