Foetal Alcohol Syndrome
Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a birth defect associated with maternal drinking during pregnancy.
There is strong scientific evidence that heavy drinking during pregnancy is associated with substantial risk of lifelong harm to a child. When a pregnant woman drinks, alcohol is carried through her bloodstream, through the placenta, and into the foetus's blood. This can affect the development of the foetus and cause Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). FASD refers to a broad range of birth defects, including FAS.
FAS is a cluster of genetic and congenital anomalies and has been found in some children born to women who are either dependent on or abuse alcohol. The anomalies include pre- and postnatal growth deficiency, distinctive facial features and central nervous system dysfunction.
Estimated prevalence rates of the incidence of FAS range from 0.5 to 3 per 1,000 births. Overall, higher rates of FAS have been reported among populations with low socio-economic status and among marginalised groups.
Not all women who are alcohol dependant or abuse alcohol give birth to children with FAS. Other factors, such as diet, older age, smoking and illicit drug use, have been associated with congenital abnormalities.
Apart from FAS, drinking during pregnancy can cause other foetal conditions such as heart and kidney defects, hearing and sight impairment, cleft lip and other brain and central nervous system dysfunction.