Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) refers to a group of mental and physical defects that are present at birth due to a child’s exposure to alcohol in utero. This tragic condition is completely preventable, but unfortunately many women don’t have the information they need to make healthy choices during pregnancy. Here is a look at five myths surrounding FAS and a look at what the reality of the situation actually is.
- "Fetal alcohol syndrome causes learning or other cognitive disabilities."
While it’s true that fetal alcohol syndrome can cause some cognitive impairments, they do not necessarily occur in all people suffering from the condition. Some people affected by FAS may grow up to have normal or above-average intelligence, but there are no guarantees either way—since this condition does not affect people uniformly.
- "Fetal alcohol syndrome is not a big problem."
It’s estimated that more than 50,000 children born in the U.S. each year suffer from FAS. In fact, it is the leading cause of mental disability in the country.
- "Drinking in moderation during a pregnancy can’t cause fetal alcohol syndrome."
There is currently no accepted safe amount of alcohol for a woman to drink during any stage of her pregnancy. While the chances for fetal damage are much less with only an occasional glass of wine, there is still the risk that even this small amount of alcohol could cause problems. For this reason, it’s best to avoid drinking at all during a pregnancy.
- "It is possible to outgrow the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome."
While people may learn to cope with and effectively manage their symptoms, FAS is a lifelong condition. It doesn’t end at adulthood, and it can have potentially severe and long-lasting effects.
- "If a woman drinks early on in her pregnancy, there’s no reason for her to stop since damage has already been done."
It’s true that drinking during any stage of pregnancy can cause fetal damage. However, FAS varies in severity depending on how much alcohol a fetus is exposed to. This means that it can still be greatly beneficial for a woman to stop drinking, even if some damage has already been done to the fetus.