Why no amount of alcohol during pregnancy is safe


October 23, 2015

A child with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is at risk for many physical and cognitive problems.


Prenatal exposure to alcohol is the leading preventable cause of birth defects and neurodevelopmental disabilities. A report from the American Academy of Pediatrics states that no amount of alcohol consumption is considered safe during pregnancy. All types of alcohol (beer, wine, vodka, tequila or other liquor) are considered dangerous to the unborn child. The report also states that there is no safe time to drink alcohol while pregnant.

When a pregnant woman drinks, so does her unborn baby. Exposing an unborn child to alcohol can cause birth defects, learning disabilities, developmental disabilities and behavioral abnormalities. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders is an umbrella term that includes several different diagnoses related to alcohol exposure during pregnancy.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website, a child with a FASD might have:

  • Abnormal facial features
  • Small head size
  • Shorter-than-average height
  • Low body weight
  • Poor coordination
  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Difficulty with attention
  • Poor memory
  • Difficulty in school (especially with math)
  • Learning disabilities
  • Speech and language delays
  • Intellectual disability or low IQ
  • Poor reasoning and judgment skills
  • Sleep and sucking problems as a baby
  • Vision or hearing problems
  • Problems with the heart, kidney or bones

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that a child or adolescent diagnosed with a FASD will have a high likelihood of experiencing mental health issues such as anxiety, mood disorders, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, substance use or addiction, as well as suicide.

If you have a child with a FASD, there is hope. While FASD has no cure, developmental improvements can happen through building trust, behavioral modification and focusing on the child’s strengths. Proven interventions and treatments can also make a difference.

If you are pregnant and having a difficult time giving up alcohol, contact Alcoholics Anonymous at 615-831-1050 or

If you have a child with an FASD, here are some helpful websites:

Lisa Hacker, RN, BSN, MHA, NE-BC is an Administrative Coordinator at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. She has a special interest in our Behavioral Health Population as well as FASD awareness and prevention.