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Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: One Woman’s Story

FASDs are a group of conditions that can occur in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These effects can include physical problems and problems with behavior and learning. About 1 in 8 pregnant women reports alcohol use, according to a CDC study.1 FASDs are 100% preventable if a woman does not drink alcohol during pregnancy.

FrancesFrances's Story

"FASD has affected my life in many ways. I was born six weeks early and weighed three pounds, eleven ounces. As a child, I never knew what it was but it was hard for me to make friends and I found myself feeling afraid of others. School was very hard for me, especially math and English. I couldn't comprehend them. I completed high school and tried college, but it didn't go well. Then I got a job.

Working was hard. I didn't know what I wanted to do and I went from job to job. I couldn't hold on to a job. It was hard for me because I developed anxiety, depression and an eating disorder. I still deal with that today. I see a therapist often and take medication. It's still a struggle.

I do a lot of writing to express my feelings. It helps me. I also watch people very carefully to learn how to do certain things. I tend to read everything twice to comprehend what I am reading. For my anxiety, I avoid loud and crowded places. I always surround myself with people that I feel comfortable and safe with.

CDC would like to give a special thanks to Frances and the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) for sharing this story with us. Read more personal stories on the NOFAS website.

I got involved with an organization called Al-Anon because I grew up in an alcoholic family. I do share my FASD story at the Al-Anon meetings. I always tell myself if there is one young woman who is thinking about having a child and who is drinking, if I share my story and that one person hears me, it's worth it.

I want people to know that there is hope. I keep telling myself, if I can survive, others can too. FASD comes with a lot of shame and challenges. I always tell people to stop and think before taking that drink. Pregnant women should remember that they are not drinking alone."

Resources for Health Professionals

CDC has developed tools and information about alcohol during pregnancy and FASDs for health professionals.

New Resources from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)
A new ACOG website provides resources for women's health care providers in identifying women who drink too much and in providing brief educational counseling to reduce or eliminate alcohol use. It also provides information for the public along with linked resources. This website is a one-stop choice, offering a cell phone app, downloadable patient information sheets, current news articles, treatment referral information, and more.

Online Training Available from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
An AAP PediaLink course, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: Identification and Management, emphasizes the importance of the primary care provider in suspecting or identifying FASDs, making proper referrals, and facilitating appropriate health care, education, and community services.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: Guidelines for Referral and Diagnosis [PDF - 612KB]
This report provides diagnostic guidelines for FAS and information about referrals, services for people with FASDs and their families, and strategies for screening and advising women about risky drinking.

Training & Education
Find training and educational resources for health care providers. This includes intervention tools, curricula, and information on the FASD Regional Training Centers.

Additional Information
Health professionals can find additional resources on CDC's FASD website, including data and statistics, scientific articles, research findings, and free materials for women, families, and health providers.

More Information

References

  1. CDC. Alcohol Use Among Pregnant and Nonpregnant Women of Childbearing Age --- United States, 1991--2005. MMWR 58(19);529-532.
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