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Module 3: Risk Factors for FASD

Introduction

The exact mechanism by which FASD occurs is unknown. Not all women who drink heavily during pregnancy give birth to children with FAS. Others drink moderately and have children with an FASD. Many factors may increase the risk of harm from prenatal alcohol use, including:

African American woman laying down holding a newborn baby
  1. Maternal drinking patterns
  2. Maternal absorption and metabolism of alcohol
  3. Timing of alcohol consumption during pregnancy
  4. Genetic susceptibility
  5. Maternal lifestyle factors, such as nutrition and parity
  6. Paternal factors, such as support of alcohol use

All of these risk factors  are important when assessing the effects of alcohol exposure on fetal brain development. However, factors that raise blood alcohol concentration (BAC)  of the fetus are most likely to affect the occurrence and severity of brain injury. BAC is the amount of alcohol present in a person's bloodstream at a given time after alcohol use. Factors that affect BAC in the fetus include maternal drinking patterns and maternal metabolism of alcohol.

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