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Saturday, September 7, 2013

NIH statement on International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Day

International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Day, recognized every year on the ninth day of the ninth month, is an important reminder that prenatal alcohol exposure is the leading preventable cause of birth defects and developmental disorders in the United States. Almost 40 years have passed since we recognized that drinking during pregnancy can result in a wide range of disabilities for children, of which fetal alcohol syndrome is the most severe. Yet up to 30 percent of women report drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

The disabilities associated with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders can persist throughout life and place heavy emotional and financial burdens on people with the condition, their families, and society. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders often bring to mind the distinct pattern of facial features associated with fetal alcohol syndrome, such as wide-set and narrow eyes, a smooth ridge on the upper lip, and a thin upper lip border. We now understand, however, that the neurobehavioral effects associated with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, such as intellectual disabilities, speech and language delays, and poor social skills, can exist without the classic defining facial characteristics.

For many years, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has supported research to understand how alcohol exposure during pregnancy interferes with fetal development and how fetal alcohol spectrum disorders can be identified and prevented. Scientists continue to make tremendous strides, providing important new insights into the nature of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders and potential intervention and treatment strategies.

The message is simple, not just on September 9, but every day. There is no known safe level of drinking while pregnant. Women who are, who may be, or who are trying to become pregnant, should not drink alcohol.

Watch a video on the importance of International FASD Awareness Day from NIAAA Acting Director Kenneth R. Warren, Ph.D., a leading expert on fetal alcohol spectrum disorders


Learn more about alcohol and pregnancy here and here.