What Causes Foetal Alcohol Syndrome

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is caused by the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol:

  • Alcohol enters your bloodstream and reaches your developing fetus by crossing the placenta
  • Alcohol causes higher blood alcohol concentrations in your developing baby than in your body because a fetus metabolizes alcohol slower than an adult does
  • Alcohol interferes with the delivery of oxygen and optimal nutrition to your developing baby
  • Exposure to alcohol before birth can can disrupt the normal development of the fetus’s brain and other organs, leading to a range of physical and cognitive disabilities.

The amount and timing of alcohol consumption during pregnancy are critical factors in determining the severity of FAS. Heavy alcohol consumption, especially during the first trimester of pregnancy when the fetus is most vulnerable, increases the risk of FAS. However, even moderate drinking during pregnancy can cause harm to the developing fetus. The exact mechanism by which alcohol causes FAS is not fully understood, but it is thought to involve several factors, including:

  • oxidative stress
  • interference with cell migration and proliferation
  • alterations in gene expression

The effects of alcohol on the developing fetus are also influenced by a range of genetic and environmental factors, including:

  • the mother’s age
  • nutritional status
  • exposure to other toxins.

Preventing FAS requires avoiding alcohol consumption during pregnancy. If you have concerns about your alcohol consumption during pregnancy or are struggling with alcohol addiction, speak to your healthcare provider for support and resources.