Is FASD a physical disability?

Yes! We know from current research that prenatal exposure to alcohol causes physical changes in the development of the brain, resulting in changes in neuro-architecture and in how the the brain works. 

How much alcohol does it take to cause problems?

Although this is a simple question, the answer is complex.

No known safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy has been established. Social drinking has been linked with brain differences in children. It is not just about how much alcohol is consumed, but also about the mother's nutrition, her stress level and overall health, her genetics, as well as both the mother and baby's specific sensitivity to alcohol.

I didn’t know I was pregnant during the first 2 months and I know I drank. Do I have to worry?

There is no way to know with certainty. Since there are thousands of other possible environmental teratogens (substances or factors which can affect the development of a fetus), any effects may not be due to alcohol only.

Stopping drinking alcohol at any point during pregnancy improves outcomes for mothers and babies.

Does fathers’ drinking affect pregnancy outcome?

Yes, recent analysis of studies showed an association between low levels of paternal drinking with lowered sperm count, as well as underdeveloped sperm leading to conception problems and miscarriage. Other studies showed an increased risk of miscarriage when men drank 10 drinks or more per week in the preconception period. One study found an association of all cases of ventricle malformation (heart defect) with daily paternal alcohol consumption during the preconception period. Another study review linked paternal alcohol consumption with adverse effects on fetal development, both for their own children and in future generations. Deficiencies in brain size, heart formation, and cognitive and motor abilities were linked to paternal alcohol use even when there was no maternal alcohol consumption. Click here for more information.

How about neuroplasticity? Can’t a person’s brain fix itself?

Neuroplasticity is defined as the brain's capacity to change and adapt, for example after injuries such as strokes or traumatic brain injuries.

Researchers from University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, have looked at neuroplasticity in people with prenatal alcohol exposure. They found the potential for neuroplasticity to reverse the alcohol-related effects were limited by a few factors:

  • Fewer immature neuronal spines meaning less room for maturation, or change, in neurons
  • Reduced neurogenesis in the adult hippocampus as well as reduced survival rate of cells (new cell generation is necessary for memory)
  • Reduced NMDA receptors, which are the key to plasticity

Click here for more information.

Can you cure FASD?

There is no cure or specific treatment for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. However, early identification and the provision of appropriate accommodations help create a better fit between the person's abilities and their environment, thus reducing and even preventing some of the secondary behaviors often associated with FASD.