Day 53 of 99 Days to FASDay: Prenatal Alcohol Exposure



Today, and over the next few days, we go back to basics to review and expand on previous posts about the effect of prenatal alcohol exposure and the brain.

Alcohol is a teratogen (substance that is toxic to the baby’s developing brain). Damage can occur in various regions of the brain. The areas that might be affected by alcohol exposure depend on which areas are developing at the time the alcohol is consumed. Since the brain and the central nervous system are developing throughout the entire pregnancy, the baby’s brain is always vulnerable to damage from alcohol exposure.

The brain is the most sensitive organ to alcohol damage. [Dr. Edward Riley Lecture at San Diego State University, September 25, 2002]

Not all damage from alcohol exposure is seen on brain scans, as lesions are sometimes too small to be detected with current technology, yet large enough to cause significant disabilities.

The preceding information is from Prenatal Alcohol Exposure and the Brain  ©2000 Teresa Kellerman (updated 2010). Used with permission.

Fetal Development Chart

It’s important to note that prenatal alcohol exposure is a risk factor for FASD. It does not necessarily link to a diagnosis. There are many factors involved.

From an article, published in 2011, called: Maternal Risk Factors for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders by Philip A. May, Ph.D. (professor of sociology and of family and community medicine) and J. Phillip Gossage, Ph.D. (senior research scientist at University of New Mexico Center on Alcolohism, Substance Abuse, and Addictions, Albuquerque, New Mexico).

There are other factors related to quantity, frequency, and timing of alcohol exposure; maternal age; number of pregnancies; number of times the mother has given birth; the mother’s body size; nutrition; socioeconomic status; metabolism; religion; spirituality; depression; other drug use; and social relationships. More research is needed to more clearly define what type of individual behavioral, physical, and genetic factors are most likely to lead to having children with FASD.

That’s why it is so important to eliminate stigma and encourage women to talk to their health care provider if they discover they are pregnant and have consumed alcohol.

If you are interested in learning more check out: Developmental Timeline of Alcohol-Induced Birth Defects.

The FASD Network of Saskatchewan shared this info graphic in 2018.


The graphic was created from a presentation made by Dr. Mansfield Mela, head of the psycholegal and FASD research lab at the University of Saskatchewan (Canada).

Tomorrow we will look at the regions of the brain that are most seriously affected by prenatal alcohol exposure.

Please note: All information I provide should be investigated and discussed with a health care professional. I am not a medical professional or an expert. I have a child with FASD. I share information I find which I believe to be from credible sources that is interesting and may be helpful to others. I do not endorse or receive remuneration from any organization featured. And on the opposite, many of the sources quoted explicitly stated I was welcome to use the information in this 99 Day series, but under no circumstances could it be sold.