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February 23, 2015

Protecting our youth: Prevention of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Protecting children from the dangers of alcohol begins long before “the talk,” and even before you need to be a responsible role model; protection starts during pregnancy.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a group of symptoms seen in children who were exposed to alcohol before birth. Diagnostically, FAS is characterized by:

  • Unusual facial features that include short palpebral fissures, a thin upper lip, flattened philtrum (vertical groove in the middle area of the upper lip), low set ears and a flattened midface.
  • Low birth weight and continued small size until puberty, when catch-up growth is common.
  • Damage to the nervous system such as decreased cranial size at birth, structural brain abnormalities and neurological hard or soft signs.

FAS is one of several Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). FASD is an umbrella term; it refers to a group of five disabilities caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol: 

  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) with confirmed prenatal alcohol exposure
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) without confirmed prenatal alcohol exposure
  • Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS)
  • Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND)
  • Alcohol Related Birth Defects (ARBD)

How to prevent Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

 Fetal alcohol syndrome is 100% preventable.

Don’t drink while you are trying to get pregnant.

You don’t know if you are pregnant right away, so avoid alcohol while you are trying. At the very least, quit drinking as soon as you know – or think – you are pregnant. 

Avoid alcohol during your pregnancy.

Doctors haven’t identified a safe level of alcohol that women can consume during pregnancy, but they do know that FAS is completely preventable if women don’t drink during pregnancy. 

Consider giving up alcohol during your childbearing years.

If you're sexually active and you're having unprotected sex, you might have an unplanned pregnancy; alcohol damage can occur in the earliest weeks of pregnancy. 

If you have an alcohol problem, get help before you get pregnant.

Get professional help to determine your level of dependence on alcohol and to develop a treatment plan.

We are proud to be partnering with Emory University School of Medicine to help spread the word and protect our youth – but we need your help, too. Talk about, share, retweet or text the information above to someone you know. Awareness is the key to prevention.

For more information on FAS or FASD, visit the Emory University School of Medicine website.

Image Copyright: Emory University School of Medicine

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