Booze, bumps and babies – it’s FASD Awareness Month

Booze, bumps and babies – it’s FASD Awareness Month

There is a time during the adoption process when we sat down with our social worker and went through the list.

The list was reasons why a child may have entered into the social care system was awaiting adoption.

This was a hard hitting, sobering session.

One of the issues we discussed was Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). September is Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Month which is why I am blogging about the issue, the leading know cause of learning disabilities.

Back to the list

Of the children who are put up for adoption, very few are relinquished. That’s rare.

Most kids are in the care system because their parents can’t look after them, can’t keep them safe, they don’t have capacity to be a parent to that child.

Let’s just say spending too much time on your smartphone doesn’t count as neglect.

This session was probably one of the toughest we had experienced. Because, for us, it really started to hit home what our future children might have experienced. I remember feeling numb and shaken.

Like many people who proceed with adoption, we could not have kids, we wanted a family, and I was desperate for a child, and at that point any kid would do.

We talked about children who are affected by alcohol consumed during pregnancy.

Our social worker told us to have a long, hard think about this one. And really ask ourselves if we can cope with a child who may potentially a have Foetal Alcohol Spectral Disorder (FASD).

Foetal Alcohol Spectral Disorder

Foetal Alcohol Spectral Disorder (FSAD) is the umbrella name covering a range of disorders that results when the foetus is exposed to alcohol.

Alcohol is a teratogen. A substance that causes damage to a foetus and disrupts its development.

A child with FSAD may suffer may exhibit  learning difficulties, Attention Deficit Order, even have problems with their heart.

  • Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is the leading known cause of 
learning disability
  • Alcohol can cause more damage to an unborn baby than any other drug
  • There is no known safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy
  • Among siblings of children diagnosed with FASD, the severity increases with each successive child born to alcohol using mothers*
  • There is anecdotal evidence that there is a lack of understanding about the condition among the medical profession at GP and Paediatric level*
  • There is only one specialist unit in the UK which offers diagnosis of FAS/D
  • FASD and other alcohol-related birth defects are 100 per cent preventable if a woman doesn’t drink during pregnancy
  • FASD may not be detected at birth but can become apparent later in life and carries lifelong implications


*Source: Literature Review – Facing the challenge and shaping the future for primary and secondary aged students with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FAS-eD Project)

Could I adopt a child with FSAD?

We were honest with ourselves, and decided that this was one of the few areas we knew we could not cope with.

I like the advice given by

Ask [yourself] not only, “Can I do this?” but also, “Should I do this?” Lots of people shouldn’t.

Some parents go ahead and take the risk because they desperately want to be parents but, for them, it isn’t the right decision—and then it’s the wrong decision for a child, too.

But we did choose to adopt two older siblings, this brought it own joys and challenges.

Is it a big problem?

No-one really know the rates of FSAD in the UK or across the rest of the world. And many children born with the condition don’t get a proper diagnosis.

But according to international studies, up to 1 in a 1000 children maybe born with Full Alcohol Foetal Syndrome and 85 in a 1000 children born with wider spectrum of disorders.*

*FASD Clinic

FSAD characteristics

There are a number of defining FSAD characteristics both physical, neurological and behavioural:


  • Smaller head circumference
  • Heart problems
  • Limb damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Damage to the structure of the brain
  • Eye problems
  • Hearing problems
  • Specific facial characteristics, including a flat nasal bridge, upturned nose, thin upper lip and smooth philtrum (the vertical groove between the upper lip and nose)

Neurological / behavioural

  • Attention and memory deficits
  • Hyperactivity
  • difficulty with abstract concepts (eg maths, time and money)
  • Confused social skills
  • Poor problem solving skills
  • Difficulty learning from consequences
  • Poor judgement
  • Immature 
  • Poor impulse control


Treatment and diagnosis

Once diagnosed, it’s a case of living with the condition and managing the effects of the disorder.

Sadly there is only one specialist unit in the UK and it is one of the very few places that can confidently diagnose an Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopment Disorder.

But FSAD is preventable, by minimising alcohol consumption before and during pregnancy.

Drinking during pregnancy

According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

“There is no proven safe amount of alcohol that you can drink during pregnancy. It is also often difficult to work out just how much you are drinking, especially if you have a drink at home. The only way to be certain that your baby is not harmed by alcohol is not to drink at all during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.”

For more information about drinking alcohol during pregnancy you can download their leaflet.

But how much is too much?

Now this is interesting.

The perception is that FASD is as a result of chronic alcoholism or binge drinking.

But an American Italian research study* looked at the drinking habits of women in Lazio.

Italian women aren’t known for hard drinking, and drinking alcohol consumption is mild but consistent, a part of everyday life. A nice glass of wine to accompany a delicious bowl of pasta.

And that’s what the study examined – if the effect of mild yet consistent alcohol consumption could cause damage to unborn infants.

Of the children studied, in Lazio, the rates of full-blown FAS were 3.7–7.4 per 1,000 children, and for FASD, 20.3−40.5 per 1,000, which is high.

This was a small study, and the results might well be disputed.

But does raise the question about moderate, socially accepted drinking patterns and the potential rate of FASD.

* Source: Literature Review – Facing the challenge and shaping the future for primary and secondary aged students with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FAS-eD Project)

Can you drink while pregnant?

Talk to your doctor or midwife.

A few questions for you

  • What advice were you given about drinking alcohol during pregnancy?
  • Were you told about FASD?
  • Have you adopted a child with FASD? Could you share your experience?

Further information about FASD


The Pramshed
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday


  1. September 17, 2016 / 4:05 pm

    This is just so sad. I decided to stay away from alcohol with both of my pregnancies. To be honest I hardly drink. Only on special celebrations. I’m very conscious it doesn’t do good to me at all. I just can’t believe people still don’t understand that alcohol and pregnancy shouldn’t match at all. Thanks for raising awareness around this problem. I hope things change soon. Thanks for sharing this at #KCACOLS x
    A Moment With Franca recently posted…Trolls Poppy Styling Head ReviewMy Profile

    • Tooting Mama
      September 17, 2016 / 8:06 pm

      You are so right, it’s really sad, especially as it is 100 per cent preventable. Thanks so much for your comment.

  2. September 14, 2016 / 7:00 am

    This is such an interesting post and one that is such a grey area. There is so much conflicting advice on whether it is or isn’t safe to have one or two drinks during pregnancy. The best advice is not to, as doctors just don’t know. That must have been a difficult decision to make about adoption at the time, I hope that once it was made you felt a little better. Thanks so much for linking up at #fortheloveofblog. Claire x

    • Tooting Mama
      September 16, 2016 / 1:26 pm

      You are right about this being a grey area. I wish the scientists and medics would agree and just give a single coherent message.

      For the adoption, it’s tough deciding what you can’t cope with, you don’t want to feel like you’re failing a child, but you have to know your limitations – it’s only fair to the child. Thanks for you comment, really appreciated.

  3. September 13, 2016 / 3:47 pm

    This is such an interesting post. There are never any clear guidelines for drinking whilst pregnant and it makes me really sad to know that the stats for FASD are so high even with what is perceived as a glass here of there (in the study) I chose to stay away from it when I was pregnant as I’m not a big drinker anyway but thank you for raising awareness.

    Thank you for linking up to #KCACOLS I hope to see you back again next week.
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  4. September 13, 2016 / 1:07 pm

    This is such an important topic to talk about! It honestly makes me so sad to hear about how common FASD is. There really is so much conflicting information about alcohol and pregnancy, I chose to stay away from it during my entire pregnancy just to be on the safe side. I am glad that you and your husband were honest with yourselves. Thanks for sharing! <3 #KCACOLS

    • Tooting Mama
      September 13, 2016 / 1:24 pm

      Thanks for your comment, I think you’re right, there are so many conflicting messages about drinking alcohol. It would be easier if there was a clear message as to what is safe and what is not.

  5. September 11, 2016 / 8:16 pm

    This is a really good factual and informative post. Unfortunately, there is a lot of conflicting advice given to women about using alcohol during pregnancy. #kcacols

    • Tooting Mama
      September 11, 2016 / 8:28 pm

      I think you are spot on about a lot of conflicting advice around using alcohol in pregnancy.

      The sad thing is there are so many children in the social care system that have diagnosed or undiagnosed FASD, but what is really worrying is that there may well be kids within the general population who are undiagnosed or have an incorrect diagnosis of the condition. It’s so sad.

  6. September 11, 2016 / 4:25 pm

    very interesting post. The thought that even an occasional glass of wine can be potentially harmful is something that many probably don’t realize #fortheloveofblog

    • Tooting Mama
      September 13, 2016 / 1:27 pm

      Thank you for your comment. It just seems there is conflicting advice given as to what is considered harmful and what isn’t which isn’t much help at all!

  7. September 11, 2016 / 7:29 am

    It’s great that you are raising awareness around this issue. I personally am against all drinking during pregnancy. Don’t get me wrong I like a glass of wine but both times I have been pregnant I have never touched a drop. Astonishingly, at the beginning of my fist pregnancy my GP told me that the odd glass here and there would be fine. Needless to say, I didn’t have much respect for this snippet of professional advice!


    • Tooting Mama
      September 13, 2016 / 1:44 pm

      Thank you. In all honesty I get the feeling this is a topic people really don’t want to address. But for adopters its a very real subject, many of the children in the care system are affected. Glad you didn’t listen to your GP!

  8. September 10, 2016 / 9:33 pm

    I did not expect this at all when you tweet me. This is so sad and I am surprised that more is not done about this. People seem to know that alcohol is not a good mixed with pregnancy but I don’t think they realise of the degree it does to the unborn. I am in shocked! Thank you so much for sharing with us on #FabFridayPost This is such an important topic.
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    • Tooting Mama
      September 13, 2016 / 1:58 pm

      Thanks so much for your comment. There seems to be little awareness of FASD outside of social care. I only came across it when we started the adoption process, as so many children in foster care and those awaiting adoption are affected. It’s incredibly sad.

  9. September 9, 2016 / 10:10 pm

    That’s so sad that alcohol, one of the most widely used drugs, causes so much damage. It’s such a shame that this ever has to happen. Thanks so much for sharing #FabFridayPost
    Sarah Stockley recently posted…#ExplorerKids – Round-up #24My Profile

    • Tooting Mama
      September 11, 2016 / 8:04 pm

      Thanks for your comment. It’s so true that alcohol can cause so much damage. We see the effects of it in adoption / fostering, many children coming into the system diagnosed or undiagnosed with the condition. What’s scary is how little information / advice is available, and awareness within the medical profession.

  10. September 9, 2016 / 3:06 pm

    This video is a visual mnemonic about mixing pregnancy and alcohol:

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