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Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)

This is one of the areas we are currently developing. Please let us know if you find this information useful and what else you would like. Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Page Feedback Form | QuestionPro Survey

What is Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)?

If alcohol is consumed during pregnancy, it passes from mother to baby through the placenta. Your baby cannot process alcohol well, which means it can stay in their body for a long time. Alcohol can damage their brain and body and stop them from developing normally in the womb. This can result in the loss of the pregnancy. Babies who survive may be left with lifelong problems and could be diagnosed with FASD.

Every child is different but common characteristics of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) are problems with:

  • movement, balance, vision, and hearing
  • learning and behaviour, such as problems with thinking, concentration, and memory, managing emotions and developing social skills
  • hyperactivity and impulse control
  • communication, such as problems with speech
  • the joints, muscles, bones, and organs, such as the kidneys and heart

Some children have characterised facial features such as small eyes, a thin upper lip, and a smooth philtrum (the groove between nose and upper lip). They may also have poor growth, low birth weights and small heads.

The risk is likely to be greater the more you drink. These problems are permanent, though early treatment and support can help limit their impact on a child’s life.

The Chief Medical Officers for the UK recommend that if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all to keep risks to your baby to a minimum. Experts are still unsure exactly how much – if any – alcohol is completely safe during pregnancy.

Most women do give up alcohol once they know they’re pregnant or when they’re planning to become pregnant. Women who find out they’re pregnant after already having drunk in early pregnancy should avoid further drinking. If you’re concerned, talk to a midwife or doctor.

If you need further support visit: Alcohol, drugs and substance misuse – NELC | NELC (

Initially speak to a GP or health visitor if you are concerned your child could have FASD.

Diagnosing FASD is complicated, there is no specific test for the condition. Identification is through recognising characteristics while ruling other causes that could better explain the presentation.

Diagnosis requires a multidisciplinary approach of gathering evidence through medical evaluation and neurodevelopmental assessments performed by specialists from a range of professionals such as speech and language therapists, psychologists, occupational therapists, paediatricians as well as observations of characteristics from school and any other professionals that may have provided support in health, education, and social care. It may also involve physical examinations and blood tests to rule out genetic conditions that have similar characteristics to FASD.

A reliable history of pre-natal alcohol use can be difficult as people will often have to rely on memory, and women may feel frightened and stigmatised by reporting alcohol use during pregnancy. For children looked after, there may be further challenges in obtaining knowledge of their birth mother’s alcohol consumption.

FASD : Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (

There is no specific treatment for FASD and the damage to a child’s brain and body cannot be reversed. Early support and diagnosis can make a big difference.

Because diagnosis can be difficult it is important to recognise what support is needed and put in place strategies to ensure that your child is achieving their greatest potential. Health, social care and education professionals all play a big part in assessing your child’s needs and can offer appropriate educational and behavioural strategies to provide the best outcomes.

Children with FASD have an invisible brain-based condition as all children are different it is important to recognise their strengths and challenges and find strategies that help your child cope with these. Creating a calming physical space, having good routines, and communicating appropriately can be helpful.

You may find it helpful to contact a support group for people with FASD. These can be a good source of advice and they may be able to connect you with other people in a similar situation.

FASD Network UK – Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Foetal alcohol spectrum disorder: health needs assessment – GOV.UK (


Currently in North East Lincolnshire there is not a formal pathway for diagnosis for FASD.

In light of the NICE guidance published in March 2022, we are currently reviewing this.

At present we can provide support on a case by case basis, if you have any concerns or if you require further information please contact