Health effects of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD)

Learn how fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and its associated conditions can affect health.

What are the health conditions associated with FASD?

Specific birth defects and the degree of the disability depend on:

  • the health status of the pregnant woman
  • how often a woman drank during pregnancy
  • how much alcohol a woman drank during pregnancy
  • other risk factors such as the mother’s nutrition and age, and if she smokes

Primary disabilities are the conditions that someone is born with as a result of the prenatal brain damage. These include the physical impairments, as well as the learning, behavioural and mental problems.

When someone does not receive a diagnosis and the appropriate support, they will have a greater chance of developing secondary conditions. These are problems that occur as a result of not effectively managing the primary conditions.

Secondary disabilities include:

  • homelessness
  • trouble with the law
  • mental health problems
  • difficulty with daily living
  • disrupted school experiences
  • problems holding on to a job
  • problems with alcohol and other drugs

Because people with FASD do not usually have any outward signs, there’s often confusion or misdiagnosis related to the symptoms. It’s more likely that a child with a short attention span is diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) rather than FASD. If the treatment is for ADHD, it may not be effective since it wouldn’t address the underlying brain damage caused by alcohol.

Someone with FASD may have other health conditions associated with their FASD. More than 400 other health conditions are related or occur together with FASD. They can affect almost all systems in the body.

The conditions found most often in people with FASD are problems with:

  • behaviour
  • communication
  • attention and hyperactivity
  • physical and mental development
Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: