Learning About Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) in Newborns

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What is fetal alcohol syndrome?

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a set of problems that may affect a child if the mother used alcohol during pregnancy. The alcohol in the mother's blood passed to the baby before birth. Even a small amount of alcohol can affect the development of the baby's brain and spinal cord.

The effects of FAS may range from mild to severe. FAS may affect the appearance of the baby's head, face, and eyes.

A newborn with FAS may have low birth weight and may grow more slowly than other babies. Your baby may have problems with sucking that keep him or her from getting enough nutrition.

Effects of FAS may include 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.

How is it treated?

  • 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 be getting treatment for the problems he or she has from having a low birth weight. This may include watching vital signs like breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. The doctor is also making sure that your baby is getting enough nutrition.

What can you expect?

  • It may seem 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. He or she may be very sensitive to touch, sounds, and light. Watch for things that can bother your child. If your baby is irritable, soothe him or her 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 call line 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?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Current as of: July 26, 2016