Alcohol Can Permanently Damage Your Baby’s Brain - Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Awareness

Alcohol Can Permanently Damage Your Baby’s Brain - Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Awareness

by Dr. Lakshmi Venkataraman on Sep 8 2018 4:00 PM
Listen to this article

  • Fetal alcohol syndrome day is observed on the 9th September annually and aims to raise awareness about the harmful effects on the baby in the womb if the mother drinks during pregnancy
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome refers to the physical and mental problems occurring in the developing baby due to alcohol consumption by the mother in pregnancy
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome is the most important cause of preventable intellectual handicap in children in developed countries

History of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Awareness day - 9:09 AM 9th September 1999

The first Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) awareness day was established on the 9th September 1999. The recurring theme of the number 9 was especially chosen to remind the world in general and the pregnant woman in particular to stay away from alcohol during the nine months of pregnancy.

FAS awareness day was the brain child of Bonnie Buxton and her husband along with Teresa Kellerman who had children diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome. They were aware of the struggles involved in looking after children with serious learning and behavioral issues due to fetal alcohol syndrome. Together they decided to help parents as well as educate the general public about the dangers of fetal exposure to alcohol and prevention of FAS in their unborn babies.

Thanks to their efforts of gathering support and enlisting volunteers across the globe beginning in early 1999, the first FAS awareness day was ushered in at 9.09 am on the 9th September 1999 in Auckland, New Zealand by the ringing of bells and continuing northwards across the Atlantic up to Alaska.
Over the years, the FAS Awareness Day has gone from strength to strength and become a powerful movement spread across several countries crusading to create and spread awareness about the dangers to the fetus if the mother consumes alcohol during pregnancy.

What We Can Do to Create and Spread FAS Awareness?

Social drinking and consuming alcohol for relaxation is on the rise particularly among the youth and can cause untold harm with severe ramifications unless the public is educated on the harmful effects of alcohol not only to them but their babies as well.
  • Use social media such as Facebook and Twitter to post and share educational messages
  • About harmful effects of alcohol, especially during pregnancy
  • Women can share their personal stories about how alcohol during pregnancy affected their baby and urge other women to steer clear of alcohol during pregnancy
  • Clinics and health centers should carry prominent messages about the ill-effects of alcohol during pregnancy and counsel pregnant women or those planning a pregnancy
  • Visual and print media should display prominent messages about the harmful effects of alcohol during pregnancy; doctors and health professionals can be invited to talk about FAS and its prevention
  • Leaflets carrying educational messages about FAS and its prevention can be distributed at prominent locations such as parks and marketplaces
  • Adolescent and youth should be counseled on the harmful effects of alcohol, and should be discouraged from entering bars and pubs if they are underage
  • Governments and local administration should bring about and enforce stricter laws to curb the menace of teenage drinking and promote campaigns about dangers of alcohol consumption for any age and gender
  • Charity walks and events can be organized in the community to collect funds to donate to organizations involved in FAS support and research
FAS - Interesting Facts
  • There is no safe level of alcohol during pregnancy and the best advice is “no drinking during pregnancy”
  • Alcohol crosses the placenta and so when you drink the baby drinks too
  • The effects of alcohol and severity of FAS can vary from one baby to another; comparison does not help
  • One major study reported that upto 1 in 20 children in the US may be having FAS; the figures are almost equal to incidence of autism and more than Down syndrome
  • FAS can be completely prevented by avoiding alcohol. Once it develops it cannot be cured; brain damage due to FAS is permanent
  • FAS causes wide ranging physical and mental health issues in the child (see below)
  • Men should be supportive of their partner’s decision to stay off alcohol before and during pregnancy and themselves avoid drinking if possible
Features of FAS

The severity of FAS varies in each child, and includes a mix of physical and intellectual disabilities, as well as social and behavioral issues

Physical issues Mental Disabilities Social/Behavioral Issues
  • Characteristic face with small eyes, markedly thin upper lip, small upturned nose, and absence of the normally present crease between the nose and upper lip
  • Small head
  • Hearing and vision problems
  • Slow growth and development
  • Delayed speech and language development
  • Poor memory
  • Hyperactivity and volatile mood
  • Poor judgment and reasoning abilities
  • Learning difficulties at school
  • Poor social skills
  • Problems at school with other children
  • Impulsive and aggressive behavior
  • Inability to plan or focus on a task
  • Risk of criminal behavior and substance abuse
How You Can Prevent FAS
  • Avoid alcohol if you are planning on becoming pregnant and during entire pregnancy
  • Consider staying off alcohol if you are sexually active since many pregnancies are not planned
  • Seek medical help for alcohol dependence in case you want to start a family
  1. FASD Awareness Month - (
  2. International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Day is September 9 - (
  3. FASD Awareness - (