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Notice to Readers : Alcohol and Other Drug-Related Birth Defects Awareness Week, May 9--15, 2004

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence has designated May 9--15, 2004, as Alcohol and Other Drug-Related Birth Defects Awareness Week. This week is a reminder that alcohol and drug use during pregnancy can be detrimental to a mother and her child. Prenatal alcohol use can result in a spectrum of adverse conditions. One of the most severe outcomes is fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), which includes facial malformations, growth deficits, and central nervous system problems.

Many children do not meet the clinical diagnosis for FAS but experience neurodevelopmental deficits, growth problems, and selected birth defects as a result of prenatal alcohol exposure. Various terms have been used to describe these conditions. Recently, a panel sponsored by the National Organization on FAS (NOFAS) met to reach consensus on the definition of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). Panel participants included representatives from key U.S. federal agencies and Health Canada. FASD is an umbrella term describing the range of effects that can occur in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These effects can include physical, mental, behavioral, and/or learning disabilities with possible lifelong implications. The term FASD is not intended for use as a clinical diagnosis.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently released a report calling for the use of screening and behavioral counseling interventions to reduce alcohol misuse among adults, including pregnant women, in primary care settings (1). Implementation of such evidence-based programs targeting women of childbearing age is a public health imperative for preventing prenatal alcohol exposure. Additional information is available from CDC at, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism at, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at, and NOFAS at


  1. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening and behavioral counseling interventions in primary care to reduce alcohol misuse: recommendations statement. Ann Intern Med 2004;140:554--6.

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