What is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)?
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a specific medical diagnosis used to describe a combination of permanent brain damage, physical birth defects and growth deficiencies resulting from prenatal exposure to alcohol. There are other diagnostic terms that are used to describe some, but not all of these defects and disabilities.

What is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)?
A woman who drinks alcohol during pregnancy risks giving birth to a child with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). FASD is an umbrella term used to describe the range of disabilities and diagnoses resulting from prenatal exposure to alcohol.

Diagnoses under the FASD umbrella include:

  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)
  • Partial FAS (pFAS)
  • Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND)
  • Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD)

FASD is the leading developmental disability in Canada.

Many individuals affected by FASD often have difficulty integrating within society, and experience secondary effects, such as: joblessness, homelessness, mental health problems, social isolation, anger management problems and difficult personal relationships.

Many individuals affected by FASD need ongoing support from the health, education, social services, child welfare, justice, corrections, and housing systems.

The cost of FASD to Canada has been estimated to be $5.3 billion annually (Stade et al, 2009). This cost includes health, education and social services for individuals 0 to 53-years-of-age. Justice, corrections, housing and other related costs are not included as part of this total cost.

What is the prevalence of FASD in Canada?
Prevalence rates of FASD are difficult to determine as FASD is often an 'invisible' disorder, meaning that the majority of individuals affected do not have visible signs of the disorder, nor have they been diagnosed. While an accurate national prevalence rate is not currently available here in Canada, it is estimated that approximately 9.1 out of every 1,000 (or approximately 1 percent) of babies born in Canada may be affected by prenatal alcohol exposure based on US data.

How much alcohol is safe to drink while pregnant?
Currently there is no research to indicate how much alcohol is safe. It is best not to drink any alcohol while pregnant. All alcoholic drinks are potentially harmful in pregnancy - a mixed drink, a wine cooler, a glass of wine or a bottle of beer - all contain alcohol.

When is it safe to drink alcohol while pregnant?
While most of the baby's organs develop during the first and second trimesters, brain development continues throughout pregnancy and even after birth. Exposure to alcohol at any time in the pregnancy can affect the baby's brain. Therefore, it is safest not to drink any alcohol throughout pregnancy. In fact, it is best to stop drinking before pregnancy.

What happens if a woman drinks alcohol while pregnant?
When a pregnant woman drinks an alcoholic beverage, the alcohol is quickly absorbed into her bloodstream and passes through the placenta directly to the developing baby. Because of the baby's size and its developing system, the alcohol can be more harmful to the baby than to the mother.