Day 51 of 99 Days to FASDay: History of Alcohol Effects

Did you know that the effects of alcohol have been observed since biblical times?

While some of the language used in today’s graphic is out-dated and even offensive and judgmental by today’s standards, I included these quotes because it illustrates scholars and physicians have noted the effects of alcohol on the people who consumed alcohol and on children prenatally exposed.

A study of children born to 120 female prisoners who were alcoholics (sic) was published in 1899 by Dr. William Sullivan, a prison physician in Liverpool, England.  “Not only did Sullivan find a stillbirth and infant mortality rate 212 times higher among alcoholic women compared to controls, he also found that women who entered prison early in their pregnancies gave birth to children who were healthier than women who entered prison late in their pregnancies.”

While we can’t really say if these comments were related to the prenatal consumption of alcohol or the post natal observations of either the result of alcohol consumption or the environment, we can see that alcohol was noted to have ill effects. So one wonders, why did it take so long for the medical community to study this and make recommendations that alcohol should not be consumed prior to conception or during gestation.

Even hundreds of years later there are still many doctors around the world that are not skilled in recognizing or diagnosing FASD – despite it being the number one cause of preventable developmental disabilities.


I wrote about that being one of my 12 Wishes for My Daughter and FASD. For an update see: Wish #7: Professionals Skilled in FASD Diagnosis and Interventions.

Many individuals remain undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

We began this journey Day 1: 99 Days to FASDay noting the first published literature that linked prenatal alcohol use with birth defects was in 1968. It wasn’t well-known until five years later when another medical study was published.

Today’s information came from the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Handbook published by the Center for Disabilities, Department of Pediatrics, Sanford School of Medicine, University of South Dakota, USA.

2018 Update:

The Red Shoes Rock team, as part of the FASD pioneers series have included an extensive history of FASD and alcohol, researched and written by Peggy Seo Oba. It starts with: Delving into the History of FASD. It was broken down by each century (1600s – 2006), however those links are no longer valid. If I can find the links I will repost.

2020 Update:

An article was published in July 2020 with another perspective: Is foetal alcohol syndrome in children as old as alcohol consumption?

Check back tomorrow for Day 52/99 on our 99 Days to 9/9 journey to FASDay.