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Alcohol is a direct toxin to the growing cells of an unborn child. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) describe the range of problems that can occur if babies are exposed to alcohol while in the womb. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are the leading cause of cognitive disability in the United States.
If your child has a FASD, he or she may be born with birth defects or other problems that last a lifetime, including brain damage. The most severe type of FASD is fetal alcohol syndrome. Infants born with fetal alcohol syndrome have abnormal facial features and slow growth as well as central nervous system problems, including intellectual disability.
The neurologic features of FASDs include:
The only way to ensure that your child will not be born with a FASD is to avoid drinking any alcohol while you are pregnant. If you have consumed alcohol while pregnant, Riley at IU Health provides a free teratogen consultation service to help you avoid or address risk of damage to the organs of your unborn child.
Your child's doctor may diagnose FASD if your child has symptoms typically associated with FASDs and was exposed to alcohol in the womb. Child development specialists at Riley at IU Health perform extensive evaluations to help determine whether your child has intellectual disabilities, behavior problems or other conditions related to FASD. During these evaluations, your child's care team will perform a physical exam, take a detailed medical history and perform psychological testing.
During testing, the doctor will ask your child to complete activities or games. His or her ability to complete these games as well as his or her behavior help the doctor diagnose any conditions he or she may have. After your child’s evaluation, you will receive a detailed report on his or her specific condition or conditions, suggestions for therapy and information on resources near your home that can help your child.
A fetal alcohol spectrum disorder cannot be cured. However, there are therapies available that may help improve some of the symptoms of the condition. Your child’s treatment plan may include medicines, behavior therapy, learning assistance or other services aimed at helping him or her develop intellectually and emotionally.
Access to special education and community resources may also help your child reach his or her full potential.
Your child's pediatrician can help you seek these therapies and services.
Visit the following websites to learn more about FASDs and fetal alcohol syndrome.
Riley at IU Health offers a broad range of supportive services to make life better for families who choose us for their children's care.
The American Academy of Pediatrics provides answers to common questions about fetal alcohol spectrum disorders on its parent-friendly website, healthychildren.org.
This website provides extensive information on diagnosis, treatments, research and prevention of FASDs.
MothertoBaby IN is a free telephone service offering up-to-date information about alcohol and other toxins that may harm an unborn child. Call 317.274.1071.
This organization’s mission is to prevent FASD and provide support for families of children with FASD. You can find education about FASD and resources on the NOFAS website that may be able to help you and your child.
Through the Indiana Alcohol Research Center, Riley at IU Health is continuously studying the consequences of alcoholism and heavy drinking, including FASD and fetal alcohol syndrome.
In addition to our primary hospital location at the Academic Health Center in Indianapolis, IN, we have convenient locations to better serve our communities throughout the state.
Sort through 6 facilities offering Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders care by entering your city or zip below.