FASD Overview

FASD: The Facts

  • Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is the leading known cause of 
learning disability.
  • FASD and other alcohol-related birth defects are 100% preventable if a woman doesn’t drink during pregnancy.
  • FASD can cause serious social and behavioural problems.
  • Alcohol can cause more damage to an unborn baby than any other drug.
  • There is no known safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy.

Foetal* Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) 
is a preventable cause of alcohol-related birth defects. FASD is a direct result of prenatal alcohol exposure and can be completely eliminated if pregnant women do not drink alcohol.

FASD is an umbrella term that covers Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND), Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD), Foetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) and partial Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS). Its effects range from reduced intellectual ability and Attention Deficit Disorder to heart problems.

FASD may not be detected at birth but can become apparent later in life and carries lifelong implications.

FASD is a result of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Alcohol is a teratogen – a substance that causes malformations in a foetus and interferes with its development.

When a pregnant woman drinks, the alcohol in her bloodstream passes freely through the placenta into the foetus’ blood. Because the foetus does not have a fully developed liver, it cannot filter out the toxins from the alcohol as the mother can. Instead, the alcohol circulates in the foetus’ blood system which can kill brain cells and damage the nervous system of the developing baby throughout the entire nine months of pregnancy.

How many people are affected?

The incidence of FASD in the UK and internationally is not accurately known. Many children born with FASD are not diagnosed, or do not receive a correct diagnosis, which makes calculating the prevalence of the condition extremely difficult.

International studies and the World Health Organisation indicate 1 in 100 children are born with FASD worldwide. With the high level of binge drinking in the UK it is possible that this number may well be underestimated.