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Find out about FASD

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Alcohol consumed at any stage of pregnancy passes directly to the developing baby and can damage their brain, body, and organs. It can lead to a lifelong disability known as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

FASD is the leading preventable developmental disability in Australia. People with FASD can experience challenges such as:

  • Physical and emotional developmental delay.
  • Impaired speech and language development.
  • Learning problems, such as issues with memory and attention. 
  • Difficulty controlling behaviour. 

Not drinking any alcohol during pregnancy will prevent FASD. No safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy has been found, which is why the moment you start trying is the moment to stop drinking alcohol.  

Understanding FASD

The experience of each person with FASD is unique. A person living with FASD has their own individual strengths and challenges, but all experience some degree of difficulty in everyday life and will likely need additional support.

People living with FASD can:

  • Be impulsive or have challenges with understanding and learning from consequences.
  • Have difficulty managing responses to sensory stimuli, which result in them becoming overwhelmed or distressed in busy environments.
  • Have challenges with regulating their emotions and need a caregiver or other adult to support them through this.
  • Demonstrate delayed language development, impacting their ability to communicate their thoughts or needs, and participate in conversations with family, peers, and others.
  • Find social interactions and activities difficult.

Learn more about common behavioural symptoms and signs of FASD by visiting the NOFASD Australia website.

What parents say 

We asked women who have children with FASD to share their thoughts. Here is what they had to say: 

“My child’s symptoms include difficulty with emotional regulation, extreme anxiety, speech issues, sensory issues and both academic and social challenges at school… These symptoms present as behaviours such as yelling, throwing things and shutting down.”

“From the time he wakes to going to bed, our day is planned to provide regulatory activities to manage the triggers that affect his life … everything is about repetition because it can take a long time for the skills to be learned to manage problem behaviour.” 

“Having a FASD diagnosis enabled us to see our son differently, to parent differently, to admire our son for his resilience, tenacity, perseverance, and motivation to continue trying, despite the daily hurdles and challenges he faced.”

Diagnosing FASD

A diagnosis of FASD requires an assessment of the extent of physical or developmental delay, neurological impairment, and alcohol exposure during pregnancy. For FASD to be diagnosed, a health professional must identify impairment in at least three of ten specified domains of central nervous system structure or function.   

A timely diagnosis of FASD can help to ensure a person receives the care and support they need to reach their full potential. It also assists families and support networks in learning about FASD and the challenges it may present. 

If you have concerns about FASD, discuss this with your doctor or other healthcare providers. To find a FASD-informed healthcare provider, search the FASD Hub Services Directory.


Questions or concerns?

Support is available if you are concerned about anything raised on this website – or if a child or young person in your care might have FASD. Talk with your GP about a referral to a paediatrician or FASD-informed health care provider to seek assessment and diagnosis.

For more information about FASD, or to find a FASD-informed healthcare provider, visit one of the organisations below.

Sometimes it can be difficult to stop drinking alcohol

If it’s difficult for you to stop drinking alcohol, help is available. Speak to your doctor, midwife, or obstetrician for support. You can also speak with an alcohol support service.

A healthcare worker with tablet talking to pregnant woman indoors at home.

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