Pregnancy Home > Effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

A person typically is not born with effects of fetal alcohol syndrome, but acquires them later as a result of the condition. These secondary effects may include mental health problems, trouble with the law, or alcohol and drug use. Although these long-term effects may be serious, they can be lessened or prevented through better understanding of the disorder and appropriate treatment.

Effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: An Overview

When a woman drinks during pregnancy, her baby is at risk for developing fetal alcohol syndrome or other fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. A person with fetal alcohol syndrome is born with certain characteristics, including:
  • Abnormal facial features
  • Growth deficiency
  • Central nervous system (CNS) problems.
A person with a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is usually born with some, but not all, of the alcohol-related characteristics of fetal alcohol syndrome.
(Click Characteristics of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome for more information on the characteristics seen in people with this condition.)
Secondary effects of fetal alcohol syndrome are problems that a person is not born with but that he or she might acquire as a result of the condition. These secondary effects include:
  • Mental health problems
  • Disrupted school experience
  • Trouble with the law
  • Inappropriate sexual behavior
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Dependent living and problems with employment
  • Problems with parenting.
These long-term effects can be lessened or prevented through better understanding of, and appropriate treatment of, fetal alcohol syndrome for children, adults, and their families.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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