Alcohol’s Impact on the Fetus
Alcohol is a teratogen and prenatal exposure may adversely impact the developing fetus, increasing risk for negative outcomes, including Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Global trends of increasing alcohol use among women of childbearing age due to economic development, changing gender roles, increased availability of alcohol, peer pressure and social acceptability of women’s alcohol use may put an increasing number of pregnancies at risk for prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE). This risk has been exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in some countries.
This literature review presents an overview on the epidemiology of alcohol use among childbearing age and pregnant women and FASD by World Health Organization regions; impact of PAE on fetal health, including FASD; associated comorbidities; and social outcomes.
The impact of alcohol on fetal health and social outcomes later in life is enormous, placing a huge economic burden on countries. Prevention of prenatal alcohol exposure and early identification of affected individuals should be a global public health priority.