What is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?

Written by: Dr. Gonzalo Oliván Gonzalvo
Published: | Updated: 09/11/2018
Edited by: Top Doctors®

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a set of physical deformities and neurodevelopmental disorders presented by children born to women who consumed alcohol during pregnancy. It is the most common congenital malformation in industrialized countries and one of the most common causes of mental retardation.


Alcohol induces the death of neurons during fetal brain development. This damage occurs primarily during the period in which the connections between neurons are established, which will facilitate the later intellectual development. Alcohol also alters placental function by decreasing the oxygen transfer and various essential nutrients, being affected cellular energy metabolism, protein synthesis and cell migration. In short, alcohol alters the proper development of all cells of the fetal body.


Clinical features

Of children born with alcohol-related disorders, 25% have a "full", ie SAF characterized by the existence of a delay in prenatal growth and / or postnatal effect on the development of the central nervous system, and characteristic pattern of craniofacial dysmorphic features. Many also have congenital abnormalities in other organs. The remaining 75% are born with physical and / or neurodevelopmental less intense, belonging to the "partial" SAF alterations.


Diagnosis and treatment

Diagnose FAS is not easy, since there are not complementary and laboratory tests that can confirm. The diagnosis is based on the existence of maternal history of alcohol consumption during pregnancy and the presence of clinical features in children. There is no specific treatment or healing. The changes are permanent and irreversible. These children may have multiple disabilities so they should receive early intervention with special family, social and health care and education.


International adoption and SAF

Children assigned to international adoption, especially from Eastern Europe, have greater risk of SAF. When the information and socio-medical report preadoptive to suspect this disorder, we recommend an evaluation of the clinical telemedicine child, in order that future parents, once counseled, can make decisions knowingly.

*Translated with Google translator. We apologize for any imperfection

By Dr. Gonzalo Oliván Gonzalvo

Dr. Oliván Gonzalvo is a pediatrician with a long history focused on adoption and foster care as well as child abuse and neglect. So much so that the doctor has a private Center of Pediatrics and Intercountry Adoption which performs this fantastic work. In order to convey information about this specialty, the doctor has conducted many lectures and courses on the sector. He is also the author of over 300 articles published in magazines and books.

*Translated with Google translator. We apologize for any imperfection

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