Pregnancy Home > Cause of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

By avoiding alcohol during pregnancy, you are guaranteed to protect your baby against fetal alcohol syndrome and other fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. While there is never any safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy, consumption in the first 3 months appears linked to structural defects associated with the condition. Alcohol consumption by the father, which may affect sperm, is not a fetal alcohol syndrome cause.

Cause of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: A Summary

Fetal alcohol syndrome is a condition that results in certain birth defects, along with mental and behavioral problems. The condition is directly linked to alcohol consumption by the mother during pregnancy.
Not all women who drink alcohol during pregnancy will have a child born with fetal alcohol syndrome. However, not drinking alcohol is the only sure way to protect your baby from this and other fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
If you are pregnant and have been drinking, stop drinking now to protect your baby. If you need help to stop drinking, talk with your healthcare provider.

Alcohol -- The Cause of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Alcohol in the mother's blood crosses the placenta freely and enters the embryo or fetus through the umbilical cord. Alcohol exposure in the first 3 months of pregnancy can cause structural defects (for example, facial changes). Growth and CNS (central nervous system) problems can occur from drinking alcohol any time during pregnancy. The brain is developing throughout pregnancy and can be damaged at any time.
It is unlikely that one mechanism alone can explain the harmful effects of alcohol on the developing fetus. For example, brain images of some people with fetal alcohol syndrome show that certain areas have not developed normally. Certain cells are not in their proper place, and tissues have died in some areas.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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