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 For both the public and professionals, there is some uncertainty about FAS. Here you can find the facts. This video below illustrates what the effect of alcohol is on the fetus.

Research shows that even small amounts of alcohol consumption during pregnancy can have several harmful effects on a fetus. A single consumption of one or two glasses of alcohol already causes a temporary suppression of breathing movements, which can last for two hours. Also, the quality of sleep of the fetus is negatively affected.

Besides this, the fetus is longer affected by the consumed alcohol than the mother. This is because of the fetus having less capacity to break down the alcohol. As a result of this longer process, a large part of the alcohol is excreted in the amniotic fluid. The fetus then drinks the amniotic fluid, which results in the alcohol staying in the fetal system.
 Rudi Kohl, paediatrician and FAS-specialist


There is a widespread and dangerous misconception of being able to safely drink alcohol during the first weeks of pregnancy. The placenta would not be fully created yet. This is not true: immediately after consumption, alcohol is absorbed by the bodily fluids as well as the blood and ends up in the amniotic fluid. Also the liquid surrounding the fetus in the yolk sac causes it to absorb the alcohol. Especially in the first two weeks of pregnancy, there is a chance of miscarriage, caused by alcohol consumption.
 Inge van Balkom, founder FAS-poli

The fetus is sensitive to alcohol during the whole pregnancy. Several tissues are sensitive to alcohol-damage in different periods. For example,  the central nervous system, brain and vertebra are most sensitive from week three. Also the heart, teeth, eyes and ears are extra sensitive to damage by alcohol consumption in specific periods of pregnancy. 
– Rudi Kohl, paediatrician and FAS-specialist

The earlier in the pregnancy alcohol is consumed, the more damage it causes. But mainly the amount of alcohol consumed at once affects the level of damage that is caused. If a pregnant women drinks a lot, it takes a longer period of time to break down the alcohol for both the woman and even longer for the fetus. The level at which alcohol is harmful to the fetus, depends on several factors, such as genetic predisposition and the specific period of pregnancy. There is no safe threshold known for drinking alcohol during pregnancy. 
– Inge van Balkom, founder FAS-poli

In order to get the diagnosis FAS or FASD, there must be a combination of four factors: 

1. growth retardation
2. physical features
3. behavioral abnormalities 
4. prenatal alcohol exposure 

If all four factors can be identified, the diagnosis will be FAS. In case only three factors can be verified, of which one must be prenatal alcohol exposure, it will be called the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). FASD is the umbrella term for damage caused by alcohol. Children with FASD are mainly recognized by their distinctive behavior. 
– Rudi Kohl, paediatrician and FAS-specialist

Children with FAS often get misdiagnosed, mostly with autism or ADHD. However, there are clear differences. A child with FAS can one day be able to wash its own hair, and the next day be unable to remember what to do anymore. This is something you don’t see with autism and ADHD. 
– Jan de Vries, psychologist

The alcohol affects the frontal lobe. In the embryo, the frontal lobe is connected to the development of the middle part of the face. Simply put: because of FAS, the forebrain is smaller, which causes a different construction of the skull and makes the face look different. Most children with FAS have a smooth philtrum, the vertical groove between the nose and upper lip, and small eyelids. Furthermore, FAS kids can have bad teeth, a wide nose and deformation of bones. 
– Rudi Kohl, paediatrician and FAS-specialist

In the womb and during the first years of life, the brain rapidly develops itself into a network of neurons. In the development of that enormous complex network, our personal characteristics, talents and disabilities are already, for a large part, defined at an early stage. If a woman consumes alcohol during pregnancy, the development of this network is disturbed, which can cause permanent disorders in brain functioning, like disorders in learning, memory and behavior.

A lot of FAS-children have a mental disorder because of damage in the frontal part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that is not yet mature during puberty. This is the reason why some expressions of FAS can seem like extreme symptoms of puberty. Besides this, FAS-children also have difficulty  forming right judgments of people. As a result, they easily get in contact with the wrong people. They behave impulsive and break the rules, because they don’t understand them and can’t foresee the consequences of their actions. 
– Dick Swaab, brain researcher

One thing is certain: it is never proven that drinking alcohol during pregnancy is completely safe. Furthermore, the damage to the fetus caused by alcohol can never be undone. Already in 2005, the Health Council stated that there is no safe threshold for alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Only by consuming no alcohol at all, risks on permanent damage are excluded. 
 Sjef Czyzewski, healthcare innovator


The FAS-project started as a journalistic initiative to raise awareness for FAS, but eventually developed into a big multimedia awareness campaign, showing the dangerous consequences of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

“FAS is the storm in your head. FAS is not having control of your life.
FAS is being different. FAS lasts a lifetime.”