Pregnancy Home > Characteristics of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Some of the common fetal alcohol syndrome characteristics include abnormal facial features, growth deficiency, and central nervous system problems. Over time, children with the condition are at risk for psychiatric problems, criminal behavior, unemployment, and incomplete education. If a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, but her child does not have all of the signs of this condition, it is possible that her child may have another fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

Signs and Characteristics of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: An Overview

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is one of the leading known preventable causes of mental retardation and birth defects. The characteristics of FAS include:
  • Abnormal facial features
  • Growth deficiency
  • Central nervous system (CNS) problems.
Fetal alcohol syndrome is a permanent condition. It affects every aspect of an individual's life and the lives of his or her family.
(Milder forms of fetal alcohol syndrome share several of these characteristics. Click Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder to learn more about these conditions.)

Common Facial Characteristics

Fetal alcohol syndrome often causes facial characteristics that may include:
  • Low nasal bridge
  • Short nose
  • Indistinct philtrum (groove between nose and upper lip)
  • Small head circumference
  • Small eye opening
  • Small midface
  • Thin upper lip.

Growth Deficiency Characteristics

Children with the condition might have the following characteristics with regards to growth and development:
  • Small size for gestational age or small stature in relation to peers
  • Small head or facial/dental anomalies
  • Heart defects or other organ dysfunction
  • Deformities of joints, limbs, and fingers
  • Vision or hearing problems.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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