Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) are a group of conditions that can occur in a person exposed to alcohol before birth. These conditions can cause physical, mental, and behavioral problems that can last a lifetime. 


When a woman drinks alcohol while pregnant, the alcohol passes through the bloodstream, through the placenta, and to the umbilical cord of the baby. Unlike the mother, who can process the alcohol through her liver, the baby cannot process the alcohol because the liver is one of the last organs to fully develop. When the mother drinks alcohol, the baby also drinks alcohol.

What Are the Signs?

Signs of FASDs can include: 

  • Hyperactivity 
  • Lack of concentration 
  • Abnormal physical features such as a small head size, low body weight, and abnormal facial features 
  • Hearing and vision problems 
  • Intellectual and behavioral disabilities 
  • Difficulty with reasoning and judgment 
  • Problems with the kidneys, bones, or heart 


FASDs are diagnosed under five categories 

Out of the four types of FASDs, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is the most common, as well as the most severe. People with FAS tend to have physical problems like a shorter height and different facial features. 

They also have problems with attention, vision and hearing, and communication. Social skills are also impacted by FAS. 

People with Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND) tend to have difficulty with self-regulation, behavior, and adaptive skills. People with ARND can also have intellectual and learning disabilities. Unlike FAS, people with ARND rarely exhibit facial or growth abnormalities. 

Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBDs) affect functioning of the internal organs such as the bones, liver, kidneys, brain, and heart. 

A person can be diagnosed with Neurobehavioral Disorder Associated with Prenatal Alcohol Exposure (ND-PAE) if their mother drank more than 13 alcoholic beverages per month of pregnancy or drank at least 2 alcoholic beverages in one sitting. People with ND-PAE typically have problems with behavior, daily routines, and memory. 

newborn baby being held