Foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a severe condition caused by a woman's excessive consumption of alcohol during pregnancy.
FAS results in physical and mental birth defects, which remain with the individual for the duration of their life. In the UK, it is estimated that over 6000 babies per year are born with FAS.
A baby suffering from FAS will present signs and symptoms from birth. These include low birth weight; a small head circumference; and facial abnormalities.
As the baby grows, further symptoms will become evident, which can include failure to thrive; epilepsy; heart defects; learning difficulties; and behavioural problems.
At present in the UK, there is limited research available on FAS and, for this reason, the condition is not yet fully understood. Therefore, experts are unsure how much alcohol is required to cause FAS. This is because each woman will process alcohol differently.
However, heavy or chronic use of alcohol during pregnancy is believed to be the cause of FAS, although binge drinking is also believed to be a factor.
Because of the uncertainty into the effects of drinking alcohol during pregnancy, the Department for Health now recommends that a pregnant women avoid alcohol completely for the duration of her pregnancy.