Much like autism diagnoses, there is a spectrum of diseases associated with fetuses that are exposed to alcohol by their mothers.

Dr. Eugene Hoyme of Sanford Research specializes in genetics and pediatrics. Hoyme said research shows that women of child-bearing age generally need to be conscious of their choices.

“The take-home message we’d like women to think about is, if you are drinking and you’re sexually you need to be careful about using birth control. A lot of damage can occur before you realize you’re pregnant.”

Of course, if the goal is to conceive, then Hoyme suggests that the best course of action is to abstain from using alcohol.

“If you’re trying to get pregnant, then you should not be drinking. The message that the Surgeon General put out back in the 1980’s is still the most appropriate message and that is no amount of alcohol during pregnancy is deemed to be safe.”

The disabilities associated with alcohol range from mild to severe. The most serious are associated with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome which leads to stunted brain development prior to birth.

Hoyme says mild cases lead to a condition called Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder in which children develop normally. However, the effects tend toward eventual learning and behavior problems.

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