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Alcohol Use During Pregnancy and Its Impacts on a Child’s Life

Abstract

Alcohol is a potent teratogen that can lead to physical and neurodevelopmental birth defects known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). An estimated 10% of pregnancies globally are exposed to alcohol, and this is much higher in some countries, such as Ireland and the UK. It is estimated that for every 13 pregnancies exposed to alcohol, there is one case of a child being born with FASD. FASD is associated with a range of negative outcomes, such as addictions, mental illness, reduced life expectancy, suicide, homelessness and criminal justice involvement as victims and perpetrators (or accused) and requiring long-term support.

A feature of children who have been exposed to alcohol in the womb is that there are often multiple other life circumstances. These include exposure to other substances in the prenatal period, as well as adverse childhood experiences such as trauma and neglect. These both confound the presentation of FASD, adding to the difficulty in obtaining a diagnosis, and, separately, may impact on the individual’s longer-term trajectory of life chances.

This chapter provides further background on FASD and then outlines the diagnostic process and why it is so challenging. It then considers the outcomes for people with FASD over the life course, including their increased risk of experiencing poor mental health and alcohol use disorders. This will also include the perpetuation of the cycle, as young women with FASD themselves are at risk of having a child with FASD. Finally, treatments and interventions to improve outcomes in people with FASD and break this cycle are considered.

Keywords

  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder
  • Adverse childhood experience
  • Neglect
  • Abuse
  • Diagnosis
  • Support

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Fig. 12.1

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Resources

  • Seashell Trust and National Organisation for FASD. ‘Me and My FASD’ toolkit: resources for young people and adults experiencing FASD. https://fasd.me/

  • The National Organisation for FASD (formerly NOFAS-UK) is dedicated to supporting people affected by fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), their families and communities (https://nationalfasd.org.uk/)

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Correspondence to Penny A. Cook .

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Cook, P.A., Price, A.D., Mukherjee, R.A.S. (2023). Alcohol Use During Pregnancy and Its Impacts on a Child’s Life. In: Cooper, D.B. (eds) Alcohol Use: Assessment, Withdrawal Management, Treatment and Therapy. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-18381-2_12

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