Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Why it Sucks

Description of Condition

  • a congenital syndrome caused by excessive consumption of alcohol by the mother during pregnancy, characterized by retardation of mental development and of physical growth, particularly of the skull and face of the infant. FAS occurs when alcohol is transported to the fetus via the mother’s placenta. The alcohol in the baby’s bloodstream is toxic and will effect whatever area of the fetus is developing at the time.



  • low birth weight

  • small head circumference

  • developmental delay

  • organ dysfunction

  • facial abnormalities, including small eye openings, flattened cheekbones, and indistinct philtrum (an underdeveloped groove between the nose and the upper lip)

  • epilepsy

  • poor coordination/fine motor skills

  • poor socialization skills, such as difficulty building and maintaining friendships and relating to groups

  • lack of imagination or curiosity

  • learning difficulties, including poor memory, inability to understand concepts such as time and money, poor language comprehension, poor problem-solving skills

  • behavioral problems, including hyperactivity, inability to concentrate, social withdrawal, stubbornness, impulsiveness, and anxiety


Parts of the Brain it Affects

  • Many cognitive and behavioural disabilities

  • Affects the hippocampus as it affects the short term memory and its use in the ability to learn language

  • learning acquisition becomes slowed at a rate of two years per two years of life (ex: at age four, usual language acquisition rate is at a two to three year old level)

  • affects attention span and reaction time (many people with FAS are usually wrongly diagnosed with ADHD first)

  • causes severe impairment or complete absence of the corpus callosum, which are the nerve fibers that connect and provide all the major communication between the right and left halves of the brain (can cause severe psychological issues later in life, like earlier onset of Alzheimers, etc.)

  • impaired fine motor skills

Incidence and Prevalence

  • -Approx. 0.3-0.9 live births per 10,000 (data collected from 1500 hospitals) are babies born with fetal alcohol syndrome

  • -0.97 births per 1000 are babies with FAS

  • -Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is rated as the most common non-genetic cause of mental and behavioural retardation and impairment in children

  • -Prevalence of FAS is currently unknown

Current Theorists

  • -One theorist is Ernest L. Abel he has written several oxford journals concerning FAS and other affiliated conditions. He deals extensively with the history of the condition.

  • FAS also connects to Piaget’s theory of cognitive development. (sensorimotor stage)

  • The University of Washington is credited with the diagnosis.


Treatment: Although FAS is largely Incurable some symptoms of the condition are treatable. Stimulants, antidepressants, and  neuroleptics can be used to treat behavioural side effects such as depression, aggression, anxiety, and hyperactivity. Learning deficits social and and otherwise can also be made more manageable through extensive special education. While none of these treatments offer guaranteed improvement, results have been fairly promising. The biggest factor we can have on FAS is prevention!


Long Term Effects: All the symptoms stated previously are caused by damage to the brain. The damage includes the killing of brain cells, the transport of brain cells to incorrect areas in the brain, the tangling of neurons, and holes in developing areas of the brain. Areas that are commonly affected include the cerebellum, corpus callosum, hippocampus, hypothalamus, and the frontal lobes. The holes in any given area inhibits the function of the part long term. This is what causes long term behavioural, physical, and psychological problems in victims.


Conclusions: From the research conducted we have determined that FAS has devastating effects on all aspects of a child’s development. We have determined that almost all of the damage is permanent. Most importantly we have decided that FAS is totally inexcusable and preventable for every child! With all the info available it is unfathomable to me why any mother would think drinking while pregnant is EVER an option!




One thought on “Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Why it Sucks

  1. I did my anthropology summative presentation on this last year and found a lot of similar results. Very interesting, it sucks that this is not really controlled by the person who gets the disorder.

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