FASD Facts

FASD stands for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. It is a brain-based lifelong physical condition that can affect the brain and body of people who were exposed to alcohol in the womb.

FASD stands for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. It is a brain-based lifelong physical condition that can affect the brain and body of people who were exposed to alcohol in the womb.

“FASD is preventable if women do not consume alcohol during pregnancy. However, FASD prevention is very complicated. There are a number of reasons someone may drink alcohol during pregnancy, including being unaware they are pregnant, having substance use challenges, experiencing abuse or trauma, and not knowing the impact alcohol can have on pregnancy. In order to prevent FASD, we have to consider all of these factors that influence alcohol consumption and we have to provide support for women and girls to overcome these barriers to healthy pregnancies.

When we say “FASD is 100% preventable” we are oversimplifying an extremely complex issue. This statement has the potential to negatively impact prevention efforts by creating stigma that pregnant women who use substances have to overcome. When we talk about FASD prevention we have to be very cautious and use language that doesn’t promote stigma or harm.”

– Canada FASD Network, https://canfasd.ca/fasd-faqs/

Research shows there is no known safe amount, timing or type of alcohol during pregnancy. Social drinking has been linked with brain differences in children. Alcohol enters the baby’s blood stream without barriers, the developing baby cannot process and eliminate the alcohol from his/her system.

Yes, recent analysis of studies has shown 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. Differences 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.

Yes, FASD is a real thing. It is not just about how much alcohol is consumed, but also about the mother’s nutrition, stress level and overall health, her genetics, her age, as well as both the mother and baby’s specific sensitivity to alcohol. Not all babies are affected in the same way even if they are exposed to the same amount of alcohol. Therefore, there is no known safe amount, time or type of alcohol during pregnancy.

Because FASD is an invisible physical brain-based condition, you cannot tell just by looking at them. What you may notice are the symptoms of how their brains work differently. What might be noticed, depending on the individual, are: academic struggles, difficulty remembering, acting younger than their chronological age, impulsivity, easily overwhelmed by different sensory input, needing more time processing information, etc.

Each person with FASD has both strengths and challenges. By focusing on their strengths and interests and providing support for what is hard, we can create the conditions under which each person can reach their own individual potential. We have to remember that success looks different for different people.

The Neurobehavioral Model is applicable to all individuals with brain-based conditions, regardless of the cause.

When a person’s brain-based condition is unidentified, others around them expect them to perform at the same level as their peers.

This can result in a rise in frustration and anger for both the individual with the brain-based condition and those around them. For some, it may present as depression, anxiety, shutting down or withdrawal. And for others, it can look like challenging behaviors, which actually express their need to be seen, heard and understood.

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 behaviors often associated with FASD. The Neurobehavorial Model helps us learn how to create that good fit.