How Does Alcohol Affect A Fetus?


There are 50,000 teratogens – pre- and/or post-natal agents – which may affect development in a baby. Alcohol is one of them.

The substance in the mother’s blood passes straight to the baby’s blood. Because alcohol is technically a toxic substance, it can kill cells in developing fetuses.

Alcohol also alters the structure of cells, reducing myelination (their protective coating process) and the number of interconnections among cells.

Changes at the cellular level alter how cells function. These and other changes in brain design affect memory storage and retrieval, processing speed, ability to abstract, analyze, make decisions, and other processes.

The type of damage that occurs depends on which part is developing at that time.

The brain is continually forming, so it can be damaged at any stage of pregnancy.

In the first three months the organs are developing. So, this is the time when the heart, eyes, and kidneys might be harmed.

Later, when the fetus is growing fast, alcohol can slow this growth down.

Because these are physical changes, FASD is by definition a brain-based, usually invisible physical disability with behavioral symptoms.

The CDC warns that: ‘There is no known safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy or while trying to get pregnant. There is also no safe time during pregnancy to drink. All types of alcohol are equally harmful.’

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