During pregnancy, alcohol in the bloodstream crosses from the mother to the unborn baby via the placenta.
This affects the development of the baby’s brain, organs and central nervous system and leads to physical, neurological, cognitive and behavioural impairments.
There is no safe limit on drinking alcohol during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Physical abnormalities are linked to drinking alcohol during the first trimester, with damage to the brain and other organs possible at any stage. The risk increases with the amount and frequency of alcohol consumed.
FASD might not be obvious at birth and can be misdiagnosed or go undetected in the short or long term. It has been referred to as an ‘invisible disability’ for this reason.
FASD affects people differently and to varying degrees. In Australia, diagnosis falls into two categories, with the first describing the most severe form of the condition:
- FASD with three sentinel features
- FASD with less than three sentinel features