Sunday marked the annual Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) Awareness Day, which serves as a reminder of the dangers associated with pregnant mothers consuming alcohol.
"FASD is an umbrella term for the range of effects that can occur in the children of women who drink alcohol during pregnancy," according to an article from the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs. "These effects may include physical, mental, behavioral and/or learning disabilities with possible lifelong implications. An estimated one in 100 babies is born with FASD, or about 40,000 annually."
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett recently took things a step further by declaring the entire month of September Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Month in Pennsylvania.
"As many as one in eight pregnant women drink alcohol, putting their child at risk of permanent learning disabilities, poor coordination or delayed speech," said secretary Gary Tennis. "Because the stakes are so high, it's critical that women who are pregnant — or might become pregnant — stop drinking."
There is no guaranteed safe level of alcohol use at any time during pregnancy or even when trying to get pregnant, according to the CDC. Alcohol can also cause problems for an unborn baby throughout a pregnancy, including before the mother knows she is pregnant, the CDC says.
Although abnormal facial features have normally been associated with fetal alcohol syndrome, recent research indicates different developmental and cognitive impairments that might arise from pregnant alcohol use.
"Most children exposed to high levels of alcohol in the womb do not develop the distinct facial features seen in fetal alcohol syndrome, but instead show signs of abnormal intellectual or behavioral development," according to a study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health and researchers in Chile. "These abnormalities of the nervous system involved language delays, hyperactivity, attention deficits or intellectual delays."