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Fetal alcohol syndrome

  • Alternative Names

    Alcohol in pregnancy; Drinking alcohol during pregnancy; Alcohol-related birth defects; Fetal alcohol effects


    A baby with fetal alcohol syndrome may have the following symptoms:

    • Poor growth while the baby is in the womb and after birth
    • Decreased muscle tone and poor coordination
    • Delayed development and significant functional problems in three or more major areas: thinking, speech, movement, or social skills (as expected for the baby's age)
    • Heart defects such as ventricular septal defect (VSD) or atrial septal defect (ASD)
    • Structural problems with the face, including:
      • Narrow, small eyes with large epicanthal folds
      • Small head
      • Small upper jaw
      • Smooth groove in upper lip
      • Smooth and thin upper lip

    Signs and tests

    A physical exam of the baby may reveal a heart murmur or other heart problems. As the baby grows, there may be signs of delayed mental development. There also may be structural problems of the face and skeleton.

    Tests include:

    • Blood alcohol level in pregnant women who show signs of being drunk (intoxicated)
    • Brain imaging studies (CT or MRI) shows abnormal brain development
    • Pregnancy ultrasound shows slowed growth of the fetus

    See also: Toxicology screen