Alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD) is a part of the fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), also known as fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). ARBD refers to only the physical abnormalities (defects) caused by alcohol exposure before birth (prenatal). The physical symptoms seen in children with ARBD can include a small head (microcephaly), shorter than average height (short stature), low body weight, small eyelids, small upturned nose, smooth ridge between the nose and upper lip, as well as heart and kidney problems. Individuals with ARBD do not have signs or symptoms of thinking or developmental issues associated with prenatal alcohol exposure (known as alcohol related neurodevelopmental disorder).
ARBD is a result of maternal alcohol use during pregnancy. The alcohol in the mother’s blood stream reaches the developing baby through the placenta and causes the issues seen in the FASDs. A risk factor for ARBD includes having a mother who has already given birth to a child with a FASD. Most doctors can diagnose ARBD in a child, as the diagnosis is based on the features seen on a routine physical examination in combination with a history of prenatal alcohol exposure. If the heart complications caused by ARBD are significant enough, surgery may be needed. If your child has been diagnosed with ARBD, talk with their doctor about all the current treatment options. Support groups are available for more information and to connect with other families affected by ARND.