These videos were supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under grant number U1HMC26371, The Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Prevention project, $1,305,159 (0% funded with non-governmental sources). The information or content and conclusions are those of The Arc of the U.S. and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.

FASD Prevention Project Blog

Blog posts

Local Health Departments as a Partner in Preventing FASD

Alyssa Rapelje and Margaret Carr, BS
August 10, 2015

National Association of County & City Health OfficialsWhile Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) are completely preventable, they are a leading cause of physical and developmental birth defects in the United States. Alcohol use during pregnancy is a complex issue which requires an integrated public health response. There are many effective, evidence-based practices, interventions, and opportunities to prevent substance-exposed pregnancies. However, the implementation and integration of these programs into existing systems is not always successful.[1] As the face of public health at the local level, local health departments (LHDs) are uniquely positioned to intervene and have an immense impact.


There are approximately 2,800 LHDs across the United States serving communities of all sizes, from rural populations to major urban centers. Many LHDs provide both population-based prevention and clinical service.[2]  Their contributions and participation in activities across the nation help create and maintain healthy communities. Because LHDs serve many different roles, they are positioned to be leaders and coordinators for FASD prevention in their communities.


FASD prevention campaigns have proven to be more effective when implemented with careful planning, the involvement of community partners, and engagement of community members.[3] Furthermore, effective programs address multiple levels of intervention including information reinforcement, incentives, and controls at both the population and individual levels. LHDs—a central facilitator of activities—are necessary to deliver and integrate effective strategies that contain all of these components into community-based health and social service settings.


Some LHDs have already begun implementing substance-exposed pregnancy prevention strategies and projects. As highlighted in CityMatCH’s Prevention of Substance-Exposed Pregnancies (PSEP) Collaborative, the Baltimore PSEP Collaborative is co-led by the Baltimore City Health Department (BCHD) and the Baltimore Substance Abuse Systems (bSAS). This collaborative utilized a multi-level approach that illustrates the necessity of LHDs in the implementation of these interventions through their role in:


  • Coordinating prevention efforts;
  • Educating providers; and
  • Educating the public.

The PSEP Collaborative developed partnerships with a dozen city agencies, treatment programs, medical systems and academic institutions. Working together, the partners developed strategies to intervene at four levels: policy, provider, community, and individual. Through cross-agency collaboration, they hope to integrate evidence-based interventions, facilitate early identification and referral of at-risk women, expand access to community resources, and advocate for policies related to substance exposed pregnancies. Through coordinating prevention efforts and educating providers and the public, PSEP has numerous goals focused on preventing substance abuse during preconception and pregnancy in their community.


This spotlight is just one example of a substance exposed pregnancy prevention project led by an LHD. Collaboration efforts by community partners, spearheaded by LHDs will ensure the successful implementation of prevention efforts.


Watch the archived webinar, “Local and State Action to Prevent Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders,” at Request the FASD Prevention Tool kit from The Arc and visit for more substance abuse prevention materials and resources.


[1] Barry KL, Caetano R, Chang G, DeJoseph MC, Miller LA, O’Connor MJ, et al. (2009). Reducing alcohol exposed pregnancies: A report of the National Task Force on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Effect. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

[2] National Association of County and City Health Officials. (2014). 2013 National Profile of Local Health Departments.

[3] Start, B. (2003). Keys to a successful alcohol and pregnancy communication campaign. A manual by Best Start: Ontario’s Maternal, Newborn and Early Child Development Resource Centre. Best Start: Toronto, ON.


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Are Pediatricians Aware that Good Kids Drink Too?

by Leigh Ann Davis, M.S.S.W., M.P.A.
June 30, 2015

Doctor and teenThe Arc’s FASD Prevention Project is working with American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to help pediatricians understand just how often underage drinking occurs, and that ALL youth are susceptible to drinking too much. Pediatricians know the importance of creating healthy habits early in life. But too often, teen patients don’t understand the risks of drinking alcohol, and even youth who are least expected to drink too much are in fact doing just that. It’s imperative that pediatricians come to understand that even “good” kids can easily fall into a life of dependency on alcohol or experience other damaging consequences of drinking too much, which can lead to deleterious effects, including Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs).

Drinking Levels among Youth

The 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that among high school students, during the past 30 days:

  • 35% drank some amount of alcohol
  • 21% binge drank
  • 10% drove after drinking alcohol
  • 22% rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol

Alcohol use by persons under the age of 21 is a major public health problem. Alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the U.S.—more than tobacco and illicit drugs—and is responsible for more than 4,300 annual deaths among underage youth. Although drinking by persons under the age of 21 is illegal, people aged 12 to 20 years drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the U.S. More than 90% of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinking. On average, underage drinkers consume more drinks per drinking occasion than adult drinkers. In 2010, there were approximately 189,000 emergency room visits by persons under age 21 for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol. Alcohol usage among young girls often starts early in their lives. Of those who first used alcohol in 2013, 83.5% were younger than age 21 and 59.1% began drinking before age 18.1

Not only is underage drinking a concern, so is teenage pregnancy. Although the teen pregnancy rate has declined considerably in the past several decades, 2013 survey data from CDC confirms that the U.S. continues to have one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the western industrialized world.2 When youth are sexually active, not using contraception, and drinking any amount of alcohol, they are much more at risk of having a child born with FASDs.

An important question to ask is why is underage drinking so common? AAP identified these risk factors in their policy statement on the topic:

  • Having friends who use alcohol, tobacco, or other substances
  • Patterns of use in communities where alcohol and other drugs are less expensive and easily attainable
  • Exposure to alcohol advertising

According to AAP’s Policy Statement: Underage Drinking and Associated Risks3, alcohol use continues to be a major problem from preadolescence through young adulthood in the United States. Neuroscience research confirms the harmful effects of alcohol on adolescent brain development. The policy reflects these primary areas of focus:

  • Pediatricians must become knowledgeable about substance abuse in order to be able to recognize risk factors for alcohol and other substance abuse among youth, screen for use, provide appropriate brief interventions, and refer to treatment.
  • The integration of alcohol use prevention programs in the community and our educational system from elementary school through college should be promoted by pediatricians and the health care community.
  • Promotion of media responsibility to connect alcohol consumption with realistic consequences should be supported by pediatricians.
  • Additional research into the prevention, screening and identification, brief intervention, and management and treatment of alcohol and other substance use by adolescents continues to be needed to improve evidence-based practices.

Because of their long-term relationships with families, pediatricians have an opportunity to identify substance use or abuse, and possibly prevent FASDs and other harmful outcomes. Both the American Medical Association and AAP recommend that pediatricians and other health care providers who work with children and adolescents conduct routine annual substance use screening of all adolescents and use brief intervention techniques. They should also be familiar with community resources, and refer patients with problematic use or a substance use disorder for treatment. Despite these recommendations, primary health care providers have reported barriers to implementing alcohol and other drug use screening (such as insufficient time, lack of training to manage a positive screening, the need to triage competing medical problems, lack of treatment resources, and unfamiliarity with screening tools).4 The Arc’s FASD Prevention Project is addressing barriers to screening through its FASD Toolkit, and offering a “Conversation Guide” to address these obstacles and provide options and resources for how to discuss alcohol use with patients. The toolkits are available free of charge on the project’s website, and include other helpful resources such as posters, pins and fact sheets on the topic.

Pediatricians must keep in mind that good kids drink too, and take the steps necessary to provide screening and brief interventions. As a pediatrician, it’s critical to ask ALL patients about alcohol use (as some can hide this very well or may not appear to be the “type” of person who drinks), and be prepared to give information and resources the patient needs. Doing so could prevent FASDs and many other harmful outcomes related to underage drinking that can last a lifetime.


AAP Policy Statement: Underage Drinking and Associated Risks

Fact sheets on underage drinking from CDC

Facts about teenage pregnancy

The Arc’s FASD Prevention Project


1 Underage Drinking—Summary of 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health infographic. Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Available on-line:

2 Teen Pregnancy in the United States, The Centers for Disease Control (2013). Available on-line:

3 AAP Policy Statement: Underage Drinking and Associated Risks (2010). Available on-line:

4Alcohol Use by Youth and Adolescents: A Pediatric Concern,” published in the May issue of Pediatrics (published online April 12).

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Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD): What Midwives Need to Know

By Eileen Ehudin Beard, CNM, FNP, MS
Senior Practice Advisor, American College of Nurse-Midwives

April 28, 2015

ACNM logoThe hallmark of midwifery care is “listen to women,” but are we asking the right questions when it comes to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) prevention? Midwives already do a good job educating patients about health promotion and disease prevention. Asking the right questions about alcohol consumption during pregnancy and preconception is vital, and can help prevent miscarriage, stillbirth, and a range of physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities for the baby that can last a lifetime. When I began practicing as a midwife in 1977, we advised women to have a glass of wine if they thought they were in preterm labor. We now know that there is no safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy. Any amount of alcohol has the potential to affect a baby’s growth and development, and can cause FASDs.

When asked about alcohol usage, many women often respond by saying that they don’t drink. In order to get more honest responses, midwives can use a technique called motivational interviewing when addressing the topic of alcohol. Motivational interviewing works well because it is a client-centered approach that helps patients explore their feelings. Consider raising the topic by saying, “I would like to take a few minutes during this visit to discuss your alcohol use.” Assess the women’s readiness to change and provide motivation for change by discussing the effects of alcohol on the fetus. The T-ACE is one example of a validated screening tool for women of reproductive age that midwives can use.

We can also help our patients by working with them to develop a strategy to quit drinking. It is often difficult to refuse alcohol when in a social situation. We need to give our patients specific tips for how to refuse a drink such as: “No thanks, I’m pregnant and I’ll pass” or “I’ll have a club soda with lime.” Advise your patients that it helps to hang out with people who are supportive of their decision not to drink, and to avoid places and situations such as clubs and bars.

Fortunately, there are many resources that midwives can share with their patients. Share With Women is a series of health care articles from the Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health, written for consumers. This educational series can be copied and distributed without permission, and midwives are encouraged to print and share these handouts. Share With Women has an excellent hand out for consumers on Alcohol and Pregnancy. It is available in English and Spanish. Consumers can also be referred to Our Moment of Truth (OMOT): Preparing for Pregnancy web site.

There is no known safe amount of alcohol a woman can drink during pregnancy or while trying to get pregnant. As midwives, we must remember to screen all of our patients annually and in early pregnancy, and to provide follow up and referral as indicated. As major stakeholders in the provision of care for women, let’s make sure we are doing everything possible to prevent FASDs.

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Alcohol Awareness Month

By Eliana Glanzberg-Krainin
April 15, 2015

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, a time for organizations across the country to commit to focus on the potential harms of abusing alcohol. Particularly for women of childbearing age, alcohol can be very dangerous. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy poses serious risks for the developing fetus. There is no known safe amount of alcohol that can be consumed during pregnancy. The exact prevalence of all FASDs is not known, but the data suggests that it may be as high as 20-50 per 1000 children in the United States, makings FASDs more prevalent than Down syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, SIDS, Cystic Fibrosis, and Spina Bifida combined.

Alcohol use during pregnancy is the leading preventable cause of birth defects, developmental disabilities, and learning disabilities, costing more than $6.7 million annually. 18% of women ages 15-44 reported drinking during the first trimester of their pregnancy. At this stage or pregnancy, some women may not even know they are pregnant yet, which is why it is important not only to discuss alcohol use with patients who are pregnant but with any woman of childbearing age. Studies show that a particularly successful intervention for FASD prevention in pregnant women is through healthcare providers. Even brief interventions have been proven to be successful. A few interesting studies are highlighted below.

Preconceptional women: The CDC created the Project CHOICES program which uses motivational interviewing in women who are at risk of an alcohol exposed pregnancy to reduce alcohol consumption, increase use of contraception, or both. At 6-month follow-up, 68.6% were no longer at risk for an AEP. Of those, 12.6% reduced drinking, 23.1% used effective contraception, and 32.9% reduced drinking and used effective contraception. The results were consistent across the diverse sites.

Pregnant women: Researchers Mary O’Connor and Sharon Whaley conducted a study of 255 pregnant women who reported drinking alcohol. The trail group had a brief intervention of 10-15 minutes counseling session from a nutritionist. The results found that 87% of the women required only one brief intervention to abstain from alcohol for their pregnancy. It also found that women in brief intervention were five times more likely to report abstinence from alcohol after intervention than women in the control group. Additionally, women who drank more than two drinks a day and received the brief interventions had newborns with better outcomes of higher birth weights and lengths and lower mortality rates.

The evidence suggests that as a provider, you have the ability to intervene and reduce the number of women who drink during pregnancy. Let’s commit to prevention in honor of Alcohol Awareness Month. Check out these links to learn more about how you can get involved with FASD prevention.

  • Read up about the latest research on prevention of FASD
  • Take a free course on FASD prevention for CE credit
  • Order free toolkits to promote FASD prevention throughout your office

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The Arc Chapters Send a Powerful Message to Health Care Providers:
Drinking during Pregnancy is NEVER Worth the Risk!

By Leigh Ann Davis
March 16, 2015

FASD ToolkitFetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, or FASD, is the single most common cause of intellectual/developmental disabilities that is 100% preventable. The goal of the FASD Prevention Project is to increase health care provider (HCP) knowledge of the risks alcohol can pose to a fetus and encourage the use of FASD prevention strategies and provide educational opportunities to health care providers, specifically family practitioners, internists, pediatricians, obstetrician/gynecologists, physician assistants, midwives, nurse practitioners, registered/licensed practical nurses, mental health therapists, substance use therapists, and community health representatives. This national-scale effort is being carried out in collaboration with national partners and The Arc’s network of 666 chapters.

To date, the project has distributed roughly 2,750 FASD Prevention toolkits nationwide. Most of these toolkits were distributed by The Arc’s state and local chapters who are working hard to educate HCPs in their communities about FASD prevention. Two chapters in Michigan, The Arc Muskegon and The Arc of Kent County, are joining efforts to enlighten the minds of HCPs in their counties. The chapters have contracted with two nationally and internationally known advocates in the FASD field, Rob Wybrecht and his mother, Barbara Wybrecht, to deliver toolkits and conduct FASD prevention trainings. These two highly-respected trainers have been traveling the country and the world since the early 1970s to spread the message that drinking during pregnancy is NEVER worth the risk.

Rob was the first infant diagnosed with FAS in Michigan in 1973. Having a diagnosis at birth has been extremely helpful to both Rob and his parents. Although there were no conferences, books or videos on FAS in 1973, having the diagnosis helped his parents think and parent differently. As Rob grew older he wanted to become part of the solution. He and his mother have trained thousands of professionals on FASD prevention, including HCPs. Through their work with The Arc of Kent County on The Arc’s FASD Prevention project, in November of 2014, Rob and Barbara provided The Arc’s FASD Prevention toolkits along with an hour and a half prevention presentation on FASD to 22 mental health therapists at Arbor Circle in Grand Rapids, MI. Participants were so impressed they asked for additional presentations and received many positive remarks, including:

  • “Barb and Rob’s presentation on FASD was extremely informative! I was especially impressed with Rob’s insight about experiencing FASD and being a self-advocate.”

  • “I love the toolkits, what an awesome resource.”

The Arc of Kent CountyIn January, Tammy Finn, Executive Director of The Arc Kent County, gave a short presentation on the FASD Prevention Project, reviewed and distributed toolkits to 24 mental health case managers at Network 180, the community mental health authority for Kent County. They were so impressed with the toolkits that they have requested a more in-depth presentation on FASD from Rob and Barbara Wybrecht in March 2015. To provide even further outreach to HCPs in their community, Rob Wybrecht and Tammy Finn developed an introduction letter that will be mailed out with 20 toolkits to local university wellness centers, hospitals, midwives, obstetricians and gynecologist offices. They are currently in the process of making follow up calls to local HCPs to obtain feedback on the toolkits, and offer presentations on FASD.

The Arc MuskegonSimilar outreach efforts are taking place through The Arc Muskegon where Executive Director, Margaret O’Toole, points out that getting their foot in the door is the easy part, but the long-term goal is “changing the mindset” of HCPs so they fully understand and embrace just how dangerous alcohol can be to a fetus…and that HCPs will pass this message on to their patients on a consistent basis. She continues to hear questions from HCPs like, “How can you really prove that one drink can hurt a fetus?” The training their chapter offers (along with the toolkit) addresses these and other lingering questions HCPs have about FASD. The training covers topics such as having a strong understanding of the risks of alcohol use during pregnancy, the use of FASD prevention strategies (including use of screening and assessment methods) and use of consistent messaging to patients that NO amount of alcohol is safe to consume during pregnancy. Ms. O’Toole commented that the laminated resource guide and conversation guide have been helpful when working with HCPs. The chapter reached out to the medical community to provide trainings and received quick responses from both local medical clinics serving people on Medicaid, as well as mental health professionals. Their chapter is also excited to begin a new collaboration with the Michigan Midwives Association in order to take the message to this specific group of HCPs.

To learn more about what chapters are doing to champion FASD prevention in their communities and how you can get involved, visit The Arc’s FASD Prevention Project website, order your own copy of the toolkit, and discover what educational materials are available that HCPs can use in their medical offices and other settings.

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Prioritizing Prevention

By Katrina Burkgren
February 9, 2015

Nurse and womenFetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) are 100% preventable, yet they remain the most common cause of intellectual and developmental disabilities. The use of screening and brief intervention tools by health care professionals and providers can make all the difference in the life of a child and his/her family. Unfortunately, countless health care professionals and providers only think to screen for women that are alcoholics or alcohol dependent. However, alcoholics only make up 4% of the population, whereas risky drinkers make up 25% of the population. Both groups drink in ways that could put a child at risk for being born with FASDs. Therefore, leaders in the FASDs prevention community urge that all women of childbearing age be screened and educated on the dangers of using alcohol during all phases of pregnancy. Health care professionals and providers are in a unique position to be heroes and reduce the incidence of alcohol-exposed pregnancies.

As a health care professional or provider, you may say, “I already screen every patient.” This is great news! But, how often do women respond with, “I don’t drink,” or simply react with a “No” response? I’m going to guess you hear these replies frequently. As stated by David Garry DO, it’s important to engage patients. Merely asking women if they drink may not be enough. In order to better understand the drinking habits of your patients try asking a question like, “What do you do at family parties or on special occasions? Do you consume alcohol?” This will help you gauge how to move forward in educating patients about alcohol use and its potentially harmful effects on a developing fetus. Providing this education to women will help them come to an understanding about alcohol and its relationship to pregnancy and FASDs.

A report by the World Health Organization (WHO) indicated that women who were asked about alcohol and other substance use in a detailed and comprehensive manner had increased awareness of the risks associated with alcohol and drug use and were more likely to modify their behavior. This showcases the importance of health care professionals and providers and the role they play in the health and well-being of a woman and her unborn child. Asking ALL pregnant women, as well as women who are trying to become pregnant, about their use of alcohol could make all the difference in preventing FASDs.

If you are a health care professional or provider who is interested in enhancing your screening abilities check out the following resources and opportunities from The Arc:

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Diagnosing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome – It’s Never Too Late

By Rebecca Tillou
January 7, 2015

Rebecca TillouPreventing FASD1 is an important goal for doctors, nurses and other health care providers who have the unique position in their patients’ lives to talk to them about the risks of drinking during pregnancy. There is ONE primary message all healthcare providers must have in common when talking to patients: Don’t Drink During Pregnancy―It’s Not Worth the Risk!

If FASD is not prevented during pregnancy (as in my case), it’s important for health care providers to keep in mind that when FASD goes undiagnosed, there can be devastating consequences for the person with FASD, their family members and society as a whole. What happens when a child born with FASD isn’t diagnosed until age 34? My name is Rebecca, and this is my story.

Throughout life I struggled with basic skills that others took for granted. I had “quirks” growing up and struggled with practicums throughout my student teaching in college. Although I was able to secure a job, get married and start a family, I started noticing how I struggled with writing proposals for work and how impulsive I could be when making decisions that affected my family. My immaturity was obvious to my peers and family, and I had a serious inability to handle stressful situations which lead to behaviors like becoming very impatient, cursing, and rolling my eyes at others. People would call me “naive to the ways of the world,” they said I had a “gullible nature,” and laughed at my inability to get jokes.

I began to notice these characteristics in my early 30s, but had no idea why I was like this. My husband and mother would ask me to explain these behaviors and all I could say was, “It’s just me, I don’t have an answer.” Finally, at age 34, I made a decision that changed my life forever: I looked for a physician who could help me understand what was going on. When I first decided I may have FASD, I went to see my primary care physician. He was incredible. He listened to my characteristics, advised me that he thought I demonstrated some symptoms, and he referred me to a neurologist. I thought a neurologist would have some idea about FASD since the disorder affects the brain. The neurologist said he had received my doctor’s referral and had briefly researched FASD prior to my office visit. He said he didn’t notice any physical characteristics, and he didn’t know anything else about the disorder. He conducted some simple neurological testing on word recall and word categorization, and referred me to a neuropsychologist. The first neuropsychologist did not take my case, nor did the second one.

Finally, I googled “Albany, NY Doctors Fetal Alcohol Disorders” and found the region’s only pediatric geneticist (Dr. Natasha Shur*) who specializes in dysmorphology (the branch of clinical genetics concerned with the study of birth defects) and has extensive experience with neurological disorders. All the doctors listed for my Google search were pediatricians and children specialists. I couldn’t locate any doctor who diagnosed adults with FASD, so I picked up the phone and called Dr. Shur. I faxed a letter introducing myself, listed all the characteristics I had that I thought may be associated with FASD and provided baby pictures. She took my case, and when I met with her she said with sincere excitement that I was the only adult case she has ever encountered. The end result was a diagnosis of FASD.

Today I am almost 35 years old, and finally have an answer to my “quirks” and social and learning struggles. If there were more doctors willing to learn about preventing and diagnosing FASD, people who are silently struggling without an answer as to “why” would finally be able to get help. Dr. Shur wanted to help me find a behavioral cognitive therapist to help me change my impulsive thinking and behavior, but was unable to because her referrals were all for pediatric therapists. This gap in resources shows the importance of having doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating teenagers, young adults and adults with FASD.

My hope for the future is that health care providers will become educated about FASD, share the message with their patients that there IS NO KNOWN SAFE AMOUNT of alcohol women can drink while pregnant without putting their child at risk, and learn how to identify FASD in youth and adults. Primary care physicians and neurologists need to be educated about how to talk to their patients about preventing FASD, and learn how to identify signs and symptoms of FASD. More websites are needed that provide information about the characteristics of FASD as well as videos of people with FASD. For example, the NOFAS website includes personal interviews of adults with FASD. As more health care providers are educated about FASD, more adults with FASD will be able to find a doctor who can assist them with obtaining a diagnosis. But even more important than that, my message to doctors, nurses, and other health care providers is simple and heartfelt: It’s never too late to talk to your patients about the dangers of drinking while pregnant, and potentially change a life!

For more information on screening tools, see:

CDC: Alcohol Screening


ACOG: Clinician Guide

To get connected to The Arc’s FASD Prevention Project:

Other photos:
Rebecca at one month old, with a long thin philtrum and a flattened face, both characteristics of FASD

Rebecca at One Month

1 Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is an umbrella term describing the range of effects that can occur in an individual whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These effects may include physical, mental, behavioral, and/or learning disabilities with possible lifelong implications. The term FASD is not intended for use as a clinical diagnosis. An individual would not receive a diagnosis of FASD, but of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and other related conditions (see:

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FASD Online Training for Health Professionals

By Kerry Mauger
December 9, 2014

CEU Landing Page imageFetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) occur when a woman consumes alcohol during pregnancy. This umbrella term encompasses an array of conditions that can occur to the fetus while it is still developing. These conditions include any or all of the following: physical, behavioral, and mental effects - all which are irreversible. According to the CDC 1-to-2 out of every 1,000 babies in the US are born with an FASD (not including the many cases that go undiagnosed). However, FASDs are the only intellectual disability that are 100% preventable. If there is no alcohol consumed during pregnancy your child will not be born with FASD – it’s as simple as that. So, why do some health professionals still tell their patients that “some” alcohol during pregnancy is OK?

Patients are more likely to seek and listen to advice that their physician gives to them. We, as patients, entrust our health to our doctors and seek comfort in knowing that our physician has been through extensive educational and clinical experiences to be able to practice medicine and give their patients the best care possible. Unfortunately, there is little educational training on FASD and alcohol screening techniques in many programs.

The Arc’s FASD Prevention Project has partnered with the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals (ARHP) to develop an online training module specifically for health professionals to increase their awareness of the risks alcohol can have on a fetus, how to effectively communicate these risks with their patients, and the different techniques they can use to help determine if alcohol use is present. Health professionals will also learn the best methods on how to start these difficult conversations with their patients and to advise proper prevention strategies to help reduce the number of future FASDs.

This online training is an hour long and can be accessed on demand at any time. It also helps health professionals meet their educational requirements as CEUs can be obtained for free for physicians, nurse practitioners, and nurses.

For more information regarding APHA’s FASD Prevention training, view our training page. To learn more about The Arc’s FASD Prevention Project and access our online catalog of current articles, videos, archived/live webinars, and prevention resources check out our webpage.

“No amount of alcohol is worth the risk.”

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Drinking While Nursing? It’s Just Not Worth the Risk

By Karen Wolf-Branigin, MSW
November 3, 2014

Woman and babyMuch discussion surrounds the use of alcohol by women who are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant. While some women believe that an occasional drink is OK, the truth is that alcohol consumption affects every woman differently and babies can be at risk for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. This is why the CDC, the U.S. Surgeon General, The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Health Resources and Services Administration, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics and The Arc advise pregnant women or women interested in becoming pregnant not to drink alcohol at all. As a result, the vast majority of pregnant women are extremely careful about the foods and beverages they consume while pregnant. They understand that drinking any amount of alcohol is unsafe and just not worth the risk.

Unfortunately, much less attention is given to nursing mothers and their alcohol use. Incorrect information is readily available. For example, a common myth perpetuated by well-meaning family and friends is that beer increases a mother’s milk supply. This unsafe falsehood is strengthened by commercially available breast milk screening test strips that are popular baby shower gifts.

Healthcare professionals and providers should be aware that nursing moms might not understand the dangers of drinking and as a result follow poor advice or be attracted to breast milk testing strips. Health care professionals and providers are encouraged to share this information with their patients/clients during postnatal appointments and lactation visits:

Get connected with The Arc’s Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Prevention Project:

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