U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona warns that pregnant women and women who may become pregnant should abstain from alcohol to eliminate the chance of giving birth to a baby with the harmful effects of fetal alcohol
U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona warns that pregnant women and women who may become pregnant should abstain from alcohol to eliminate the chance of giving birth to a baby with the harmful effects of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). This warning updates a 1981 Surgeon General's Advisory that suggested pregnant women should limit the amount of alcohol they drink. A variety of birth defects caused by prenatal alcohol exposure comprise FASD. They may include mild and subtle changes, such as a slight learning disability or physical abnormality, through full-blown fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), which can include severe learning disabilities, growth deficiencies, abnormal facial features, and central nervous system disorders.

Researchers first recognized FAS in 1973. The discovery led to widespread public education and awareness initiatives informing women to limit the amount of alcohol they consume while pregnant.

"We do not know what, if any, amount of alcohol is safe," says Carmona. "But we do know that the risk of a baby being born with any of the fetal alcohol spectrum disorders increases with the amount of alcohol a pregnant woman drinks, as does the likely severity of the condition." When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, so does her baby, according to Carmona.



Studies indicate that a baby could be affected by alcohol consumption within the earliest weeks after conception, even before a woman knows she is pregnant, the surgeon general says. For that reason, the warning to abstain from alcohol includes women who may become pregnant. A number of resources are available to assist health care and social services professionals in advising their patients to refrain from drinking alcohol during pregnancy. These can be found at: www.fascenter.samhsa.gov, www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fas/, and www.niaaa.nih.gov.PregnancyAndBaby.com

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