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Learning About Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) in Newborns


Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a set of problems that may affect a child if alcohol was used during pregnancy. Alcohol passes from the placenta to the baby's blood. Even a small amount of alcohol can affect the development of the baby's brain and spinal cord.

FAS may range from mild to severe. A newborn with FAS may have low birth weight and may grow more slowly than other babies. FAS may affect the appearance of the baby's head, face, and eyes. The baby may have problems with sucking. This keeps the baby from getting enough nutrition.

FAS may cause physical or mental challenges that can last for life. Some FAS effects, like learning or behavioural problems, might not appear until the child is older. Treatment can help a child with FAS live a healthy life.

How is it treated?

Your baby's doctors and nurses will help you learn how to care for and bond with your baby. They'll also help you feel comfortable with the care that your baby is given. For example:

  • Your baby may need special care, such as being in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). This may be scary for you. But the hospital staff understands this. They will explain what happens and will answer your questions.
  • Your baby may get treatment for the problems that result from having a low birth weight. This may include watching vital signs like breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure.
  • The hospital staff will also make sure that your baby is getting enough nutrition and gaining weight.

What can you expect?

  • You may be concerned that your baby is getting lots of tests. All of these tests help your doctor keep track of your baby's condition and give the best treatment possible.
  • Caring for a baby with FAS at home can take extra patience. Your baby may be very sensitive to touch, sounds, and light. Watch for things that can bother your child. If your baby is irritable, try soothing them in a darkened room. If your baby has problems feeding, give smaller amounts of food more often.
  • Your doctor will give you instructions for caring for your baby. Be sure to follow all of your doctor's instructions closely.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

Where can you learn more?

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