Physical Effects

Fetal alcohol damage can affect any part the body. Because the developing fetus has very few cells of any one kind, the likelihood of alcohol damaging more than one organ or area of the body is significant.

The physical damage is seen in two ways:

  • underdeveloped structures (For example, height, weight and head circumference are in the 10 th percentile or lower for the child’s age.)
  • birth defects (damaged or incompletely formed structures)

That is why children with FASD are often medically “fragile.” Structurally, many parts of the body are underdeveloped. Brain structures are smaller than normal. A child’s muscle tone may be poor because the muscles are underdeveloped. That causes problems with feeding, walking and talking. Birth defects may include heart defects, hearing or visual problems, cleft palate, kidney problems, or an array of other physical malformations. Devastating birth defects can be present even in the absence of other hallmarks of FASD.

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