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Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: One Woman’s Story

Pregnant woman looking at sonogram

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) are physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities that last a lifetime. Often, a person with an FASD has a mix of these problems. FASDs are completely preventable if a developing baby is not exposed to alcohol before birth.

Frances’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.


“I want people to know that there is hope. I keep telling myself, if I can survive, others can, too.”

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.

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.”

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.

CDC Activities

The CDC has conducted FASD research, identification, and prevention efforts since 1991. Key activities include the following:

  • Monitoring alcohol consumption among women of reproductive age;
  • Supporting the implementation, adoption, and promotion of alcohol screening and brief counseling, including CHOICES;
  • Promoting effective treatments for children, adolescents, and young adults living with FASDs and their families;
  • Enhancing healthcare provider education on prevention, identification, and treatment of FASDs; and
  • Offering FASD-related educational information and materials for women of reproductive age, healthcare providers, and the general public.