Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
By Kerry A. Wiley and Sue Nigra*
Research estimates show that over 130,000 pregnant women with and without disabilities consume alcohol at levels shown to increase the risk of having a baby with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) each year in the United States. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) are a range of birth defects resulting from prenatal alcohol exposure. Estimates are that one in 100 newborns is affected by prenatal alcohol exposure; nationally, as many as 40,000 babies are born with an FASD every year.
The effects of prenatal alcohol exposure may include: physical, behavioral, and/or learning disabilities, impaired cognitive functioning, poor memory and judgment skills, impaired sensory integration and information processing functions. Secondary conditions resulting from prenatal alcohol exposure can include: mental health problems, exhibition of challenging behaviors, disrupted school experience, involvement with the criminal justice system, and alcohol and drug problems. About half of all children with FASD show some degree of intellectual disability and exhibit serious attention and behavioral issues.
Although reported rates of alcohol use among young women with and without disabilities vary, over 57.1 percent of women age 18 to 25 report drinking in the U.S. Alcohol use among women with and without disabilities between the ages of 18 and 44 is a leading and preventable cause of birth defects and developmental disabilities in the U.S. FASD is 100 percent preventable if women don’t drink alcohol during pregnancy.