The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded a research on how alcohol affects babies while they are still in their mother’s womb.

Over 6,000 first-graders across four U.S. communities suffer from fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) after having a prenatal alcohol exposure. According to the study, the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on the brain can result in a range of neurobiological deficits that contribute to physical, cognitive, behavioral, and social challenges throughout life.

“Prenatal alcohol exposure is a leading preventable cause of developmental disabilities worldwide,” said NIAAA Director George F. Koob, Ph.D. “Estimating the prevalence of FASD in the United States has been complex due to the challenges in identifying prenatally exposed children. The findings of this study confirm that FASD is a significant public health problem, and strategies to expand screening, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment are needed to address it.”

The study, conducted by the Collaboration on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Prevalence (CoFASP) consortium,  showed that kids from communities in the Midwest, Rocky Mountain, Southeast and Pacific Southwest, range from 1.1 to 5 percent of first-graders in public and private schools were diagnosed with FASD.

NIH also reported that of the children diagnosed with FASD in the study, only two had been previously diagnosed with FASD, suggesting that children with FASD often go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

According to the vector graphic from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the craniofacial features associated with fetal alcohol syndrome includes a small head circumference, thin upper lip, low nasal bridge, skin folds at the corner of the eye, and other characteristics. 

FASkid Craniofacial features associated with fetal alcohol syndrome. Photo: NIH