Foetal alcohol spectrum disorders

Foetal alcohol syndrome, FAS, partial foetal alcohol syndrome (PFAS), alcohol-related neuro-developmental disorder (ARND), alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD) and FASD

What are foetal alcohol spectrum disorders?

Foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) are a spectrum of disorders caused by drinking alcohol whilst pregnant. This happens when alcohol gets passed from the mother to the baby through the placenta.

FASDs affect multiple areas of a newborn and foetus’ development and appearance.

FASD is a lifelong condition and those living with it communicate and interact with the world differently.

What causes foetal alcohol spectrum disorders?

The only cause of FASDs is drinking alcohol whilst pregnant.

They happen when alcohol is passed through across the placenta and interferes with the developing child.

The amount and how often the woman drinks alcohol whilst pregnant will affect the severity of the disorder.

As a foetus cannot process alcohol like an adult can, the alcohol stays in their body for a longer amount of time causing damage.

There is no known safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

What are the symptoms of FASDs ?

Some symptoms are evident from birth, but some can continue showing as the child develops.

The best prognosis comes from early diagnosis and appropriate support. Assessment seeks to uncover both strengths and weaknesses.

The physical symptoms include:

  • Difficulties with balance, hearing and movement
  • Issues with kidneys, joints, bones, heart and other organs
  • Characteristic facial features such as small and wide set eyes, a thin upper lip and a smoothed bridge between the nose and lips
  • Small body and head
  • Hormonal disorders

The effect on the brain can result in various challenges with:

  • Memory
  • Hyperactivity
  • Sensory issues
  • Emotional regulation
  • Impulsivity
  • Understanding cause and effect
  • Self-esteem
  • Epilepsy
  • Thought processing
  • Sleep/eating disorders
  • Learning disorders
  • Behavioural issues
  • Problems with impulse control
  • Reading social cues
  • Issues with speech and communicating
  • Issues with social skills

If undiagnosed secondary effects can impact on:

  • Mental health
  • Alcohol and drug addiction
  • Involvement with the law
  • Inappropriate sexual behaviour
  • Employment
  • Independent living

Are you affected by foetal alcohol spectrum disorders ?

If you’re affected by foetal alcohol spectrum disorders, The Brain Charity can support you.

We are the only charity in the UK to be here for every one of the more than 600 different neurological conditions in existence. Individually, many are rare, but combined, they affect 1 in 6 people.

We provide practical help on all aspects of living with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders, emotional support such as counselling, phone befriending and group therapy and social activities to people with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders and their family, friends and carers from all over the UK from our centre in Liverpool.

Looking to talk to someone?

Woman smiling, making eye contact and holding the hand of another woman to comfort her

Phone us

Contact The Brain Charity now

Our friendly Information & Advice Officers are here to help. We endeavour to respond to all enquiries within 10 working days.

0151 298 2999

Looking to talk to someone?

  • Please tell us which neurological condition you are affected by and what you need support with.

Caring for someone with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders

We support carers, friends and family too

Are you a carer for or relative of someone with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders? It’s just as important for you to look after your own physical and mental wellbeing too.

The Brain Charity provides free support for carers, friends and family of people with any form of neurological condition, including foetal alcohol spectrum disorders, from anywhere in the UK.

We also run an additional carers advocacy service for all carers in Liverpool, regardless of which type of condition the person they care for has.

You don’t need to be a formal or registered carer

We can help you even if you don’t view yourself as a formal carer or claim Carer’s Allowance. Find out some of the ways we support carers below.

Other resources

Support groups

FASD Awareness

FASD UK Alliance


Support groups at The Brain Charity

Are you interested in setting up an FASD support group, or do you already run one? Email to let us know.

Alternatively, you can check out our list of related support groups here.

Other charities

National Organisation for FASD

National FASD Clinic