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Guideline

Children and young people exposed prenatally to alcohol

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Last updated:29th Aug 2019

Alcohol consumption in pregnancy has the potential to cause significant fetal damage. In 1973, a cluster of birth defects resulting from prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) was first described as the clinical entity fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Diagnostic criteria for FAS include evidence of PAE, evidence of structural or functional central nervous system abnormalities, a specific pattern of three facial abnormalities and growth impairment (either prenatally, after birth or both). Exposure to alcohol during pregnancy can result in other fetal injuries. These wider patterns of effects, along with FAS, constitute the continuum of structural anomalies and neurocognitive and behavioural disabilities associated with prenatal exposure to alcohol which has been labelled FASD.

The guideline will be of interest to individuals involved in the assessment and diagnosis of people at risk of FASD, including child development specialists, clinical and educational psychologists and neuropsychologists, clinical geneticists, general practitioners and members of the primary care team, health visitors, judicial services, midwives, neonatologists, nurses (eg school, learning disability and others), obstetricians, occupational therapists, paediatricians, physicians, physiotherapists, psychiatrists, social workers and speech and language therapists. It will also be of interest to people at risk of FASD, their parents and carers, adoptive and fostering services, supportive organisations in the voluntary sector and policy makers.

This document provides recommendations based on best available evidence and consensus for the assessment and diagnosis of children and young people affected by PAE.

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