Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD)

There is no known safe amount or time to drink alcohol during pregnancy. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) refers to a range of preventable birth defects and disorders caused when a developing baby is exposed to alcohol before they are born.

Key points about fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD)

  1. There is no safe time to drink alcohol in pregnancy.
  2. There is no safe amount to drink in pregnancy.
  3. Drinking alcohol when pregnant can change a baby's physical appearance and damage their brain.
  4. Incorrect information, fear of causing stress and social pressure to drink may be barriers to women being able to make well-informed choices around alcohol use during pregnancy.

What is FASD?

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) refers to a range of preventable birth defects and disorders caused when a developing baby is exposed to alcohol before they are born.

Don't drink while pregnant

There is no safe time to drink alcohol in pregnancy. There is no safe amount to drink in pregnancy.

Drinking can damage your baby

Drinking alcohol when pregnant can change a baby's physical appearance and damage their brain. There can also be brain damage without any obvious physical changes. This brain damage shows up as learning and/or behaviour problems that can cause lifelong difficulties. FASD is a lifelong disability.

FASD in Aotearoa NZ

Based on overseas studies and our drinking patterns, New Zealand can expect up to 3,000 babies a year to be born with FASD.

Making informed choices

Incorrect information, fear of causing stress and social pressure to drink may be barriers to women being able to make well-informed choices around alcohol use during pregnancy.

What to do if you're worried about a child

If you're worried about the behaviour and learning of a child who was exposed to alcohol during pregnancy, ask your family doctor for a referral to your nearest Child Health Service.

Where can I go for more information and support to help me stop drinking?

If you are pregnant or planning to be pregnant and having trouble stopping drinking, seek the help of your local health professional or lead maternity carer, or call the Alcohol Drug Helpline 0800 787 797.

The Fetal Alcohol Network New Zealand (FANNZ) has further information and contact details should you wish to talk to someone about any concerns.

Support for whānau and caregivers of a person with FASD

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Care Action Network provides support and education for whānau, individuals and communities across Aotearoa.

Learn more

Information and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder Fetal Alcohol Network NZ
Alcohol and pregnancy Health Promotion Agency NZ
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder Ministry of Health NZ, 2020

  Credits

Content courtesy of KidsHealth NZ which has been created by a partnership between the Paediatric Society of New Zealand (PSNZ) and the Starship Foundation, supported and funded by the Ministry of Health.

Credits: KidsHealth NZ. Reviewed By: Health Navigator Editorial Team Last reviewed: 09 Sep 2021