Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is an umbrella term used to describe fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and the less noticeable, but sometimes equally serious, fetal alcohol effects (FAE). FAS and FAE are permanent, and often devastating, birth-defect syndromes caused by maternal consumption of alcohol during pregnancy.

A birth defect is an abnormality of structure, function or metabolism (body chemistry) present at birth that results in physical or mental disability, or is fatal. Several thousand different birth defects have been identified. Birth defects are the leading cause of death in the first year of life.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome as related to Birth Defects