Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

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  • A pattern of physical and mental defects that affects up to half the babies born to women who regularly abuse alcohol during pregnancy. Unlike many other substances, alcohol can cross the placental barrier and affect the nervous system of the embryo. FAS is characterized by mental retar dation and facial deformities (e.g., underdeveloped upper jaw, widely spaced eyes, and flattened nose), as well as many secondary impairments (e.g., mental health problems) arising from prenatal damage to the central nervous system. FAS is considered the leading preventable cause of mental retardation. Heavy use of alcohol during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, premature delivery, and stillbirth. For more information, see Stratton, Howe, and Battaglia (1996).

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