Symptoms and Signs of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Doctor's Notes on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) results from women drinking alcohol while pregnant. Alcohol use during pregnancy can cause birth defects and FAS always involves brain damage, impaired growth, and head and face abnormalities in the baby. There is no amount of alcohol that has been proven safe for consumption during pregnancy.

Symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome in children include diminished growth, low birth weight, impaired performance, irritability (in infants). Hyperactivity (in older children), impaired fine motor skills (weak grasp, poor hand-eye coordination), tremors, diminished intelligence (mild mental retardation is common), small head (microcephalic), face abnormalities (short eye openings, sunken nasal bridge, short nose, flattening of the cheekbones and midface, smoothing and elongation of the ridged area between the nose and lips, and smooth, thin upper lip), abnormal position and function of joints, shortening finger bones, heart murmur, and other birth defects such as hydrocephalus, cleft lip (sometimes with a cleft palate), narrowing of the aorta, and spina bifida.

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.