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Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Day

Alcohol During Pregnancy: Melissa’s Story

This is the story of Melissa’s experience with alcohol use during pregnancy and her journey to find the best possible care for her son.

Watch Melissa’s Full Story on Video

“I drank at the beginning of my pregnancy, before I found out I was pregnant. My doctor told me that it was okay to continue to drink wine during pregnancy. He said I could have a glass of wine at night with dinner. He said it might even help me relax and improve circulation. Not only did I think drinking wine during pregnancy was okay, but I thought that it could be healthy. He never asked me if I had a drinking problem, or how many drinks I have a day, or if I binge drink. There wasn’t any dialogue. I really wish that my doctor would have had more dialogue or asked me questions about drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

“When my son was born he looked perfect. He has amazing strengths. He’s brilliant and he’s an amazing musician. However, as he got older I realized that things just weren’t quite right. He doesn’t like how clothes feel. He wore the same outfit for almost a year. I finally found a pair of socks that he would wear. Then the company stopped making the sock. That wouldn’t be a big deal for most people, but it was a terrifying moment for me. We went through about 25 packages of socks before we found a new brand that he would wear.

“On his first day of kindergarten, the school called me because he had turned over all of the chairs that people weren’t sitting in, turned over items in the kitchen area in the classroom, and thrown his shoes at the teacher.

“Most kids will get mad when they have to end play dates or sleepovers. But instead of just getting mad, my son tried to jump out of the car the other day because he had to leave a sleepover.

“When I finally realized what was going on, it was a relief, and it was horrifying, and I felt guilty, and I felt ashamed. But mostly I felt relieved to know what was going on.

“If a pregnant woman said to me, ‘I drink a little bit here and there and I was told it was okay,’ I would tell her that she wouldn’t if she had to live just one day with the way that I feel about myself, knowing how my son has been affected by my choices.

“I am angry that I was given wrong information about drinking during pregnancy. I want to tell as many people as I can about it. You never know how much alcohol during pregnancy is too much, so why take that chance?”

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

What We Know

  • There is no guaranteed safe level of alcohol use at any time during your pregnancy or even when you’re trying to get pregnant.
  • Alcohol can cause problems for your unborn baby throughout your pregnancy, including before you know you are pregnant.
  • All kinds of alcohol should be avoided, including red or white wine, beer, and liquor.
  • If you are pregnant and have been drinking, it’s never too late to stop.

Reasons Why

  • When you drink, your baby drinks, and that can lead to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs).
  • FASDs include a wide range of physical and mental disabilities and lasting emotional and behavioral problems.
  • You may not know right away if your child has been affected. FASDs include a range of physical and intellectual disabilities that are not always easy to identify when a child is a newborn. Some of these effects may not be known until your child is in school.

What You Can Do

  • FASDs are 100% preventable. By not drinking, you have the power to improve your child’s chances of a healthy start.
  • The sooner you stop drinking, the better it will be for both you and your baby. If you are pregnant and have been drinking, talk to your doctor or nurse.
  • There is no cure for FASDs. However, identifying children with these conditions as early as possible can help them to reach their full potential.

FASD “App”

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Application CDC recently launched an FASD application (or “app”). The app is a way for users to access the latest information on alcohol use during pregnancy and FASDs directly from an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. From women planning a pregnancy to health care providers to families and educators, this app helps users easily find and share the latest in the prevention, recognition, and treatment of FASDs. It is a companion to CDC’s FASD website.

Check out these features:

  • Individualized pages for different users – women, families, health care providers, educators, and partners
  • Easy-to-read information on diagnosis and treatments for children with FASDs
  • Training and education resources
  • Alcohol consumption data by state
  • Access to free materials on alcohol use and pregnancy and FASDs
  • Information on what CDC is doing in this area

Download the FASD App

From your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad, go to the Apple App store and search for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. You can also find it under CDC.

More Information