Each year, nearly 40,000 babies are born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disorders are caused by mothers’ alcohol consumption during pregnancy and range in severity. Some infants with the most severe form of FASDs have serious physical, psychological and developmental conditions that continue into adulthood.
Leigh Tenkku, associate research professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Missouri – Columbia and director of the Midwest Regional Fetal Alcohol Symptom Training Center, says no amount and no type of alcohol is safe for women to drink during pregnancy.
“Women should not drink alcohol if they are pregnant and, especially, if they are thinking about becoming pregnant,” Tenkku said. “Women do not find out they are pregnant for up to six to eight weeks into their pregnancies, and the most damaging effects of alcohol on the fetus occur within those first weeks of life.”
FASDs, like autism spectrum disorders, occur on a spectrum of severity and do not improve over time. However, unlike other birth defects or developmental disorders, FASDs easily can be prevented.
“Of all known birth defects, FASDs are 100-percent preventable if moms refrain from drinking alcohol,” Tenkku said.
“Medical professionals should support no alcohol during pregnancy and should counsel women who are considering becoming pregnant to not drink when they are trying to conceive.”
Tenkku is the director for research and director of the doctoral program for the School of Social Work, which is part of the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences. She has received more than $1 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to support her ongoing work as director of the Midwest Regional Fetal Alcohol Symptom Training Center.
For more information about FASDs, visit http://www.nofas.org/factsheets/ orhttp://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/index.html.