Alcohol & Pregnancy

Thousands of Colorado families are impacted by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), a term used to describe a range of effects that can occur in a fetus exposed to alcohol before birth.

No amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy.

All types of alcohol – including wine, beer, hard cider, wine coolers, and hard liquor – contain chemicals known as teratogens that are harmful to fetal development.1 The safest choice is not to drink any type of alcohol during pregnancy.

Alcohol is the leading cause of preventable brain injuries.

The fetus develops at a rapid rate throughout the entire pregnancy.2 Most importantly, the brain is always developing, even after the baby is born.3 Because of this, the safest choice is to not drink any alcohol throughout the entire pregnancy, including the third trimester.


People living with an FASD can reach 100% of their potential.


FASD are 100% preventable.

What is FASD?

FASD is not a diagnostic term, but an umbrella term intended to encompass all the diagnostic categories designated by the Institute of Medicine. Diagnoses under the FASD umbrella include:

  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)
  • Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS)
  • Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND)
  • Static Encephalopathy
  • Neurobehavioral Disorder associated with Prenatal Alcohol Exposure (ND-PAE) [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5 (DSM 5)]
  • Alcohol Related Birth Defects
FASD is often misdiagnosed or underdiagnosed. It is estimated that up to 1 in 20 U.S. school aged children may have an FASD. 4

Prevention Strategies

Support People of Reproductive Age


Accessing Family Planning Services So They Have the Tools & Power to Decide If and When to Become Pregnant


Accessing Treatment and Recovery Services in Case Support is Needed to Have an Alcohol-Free Pregnancy

Support Pregnant People


Accessing a Continuum of Health Care Services including:

  • Prenatal Care
  • Mental Health Care 
  • Behavioral Health Care

Educate Providers and Family-Serving Professionals


How to Best to Provide Care and Resources to People of Reproductive Age Who have Alcohol Use Disorders


    How to Best Provide Care and Resources to Support Families and Individuals Impacted by FASD, Including Referral Options


      Raise Community Awareness


      Reduce Stigma by:

      • Using Person-First Language to Talk About a Person that has a Disability Rather than Presenting the Disability as the Entirety of their Identity
      • Empower Families Impact by FASD through Story-Telling to Encourage Audiences to Reconsider their Attitudes Towards Alcohol and Pregnancy and Better Support People with FASD

      Knowledge of child development is important to reduce child maltreatment and FASD. Greater understanding of child development and parenting strategies that support physical, cognitive, language, social and emotional development is critical to helping children reach their full potential.

      A lack of understanding of developmental milestones and common behaviors of children and teens impacted by FASD, contributes to misdiagnosed, underdiagnosed and greater risk of child maltreatment. Children with disabilities are nearly 4 times more likely to be physically abused or neglected and more than 3 times more likely to be sexually abused when compared to children without disabilities.5


      Children with an FASD are more likely to show gaps in:


      • Problem-solving skills/executive functioning
      • Memory
      • Processing, including sensory processing and rate of processing
      • Ability to remain attentive
      • Understanding consequences

      Adolescents with an FASD are more likely to be impacted by:


      • Difficulties with attention, self regulation, decision-making and cognition
      • School problems and employment failure
      • Behavioral and mental health conditions and substance misuse
      • Criminal and juvenile justice involvement

      Illuminating FASD

      Know What to Look For, How to React and Get Involved to Strengthen Your Community

      Families Impacted by FASD Need Support

      Medical Care
      Specific health conditions may require monitoring and treatment. Medications may be used to manage hyperactivity, depression or anxiety.

      Occupational Therapy
      May help with impulse control and sensory issues.


      Behavioral and Education Therapies

      May help children and youth develop adaptive skills, appropriate social behavior, and learning readiness.

      Screening Across Systems

      Standardized screening in health care, school, and other systems designed to support families.

      Diagnostic Services

      Early diagnosis is very important. Ensuring access to quality and affordable diagnostic services can support families in receiving additional services and supports. 


      Developmental Screening & Early Intervention

      If a young child is not meeting typical developmental milestones, or someone is concerned about the child’s growth or learning, child find teams will evaluate how the child plays, learns, speaks, behaves and moves for FREE, through Child Find.

      Special Education

      Students may qualify for special educational services in one of these categories: Other Health Impaired, Serious Emotional Disability, Specific Learning Disability and Speech or Language Impairment.

      Parenting Training & Support 

      Should be tailored to each family’s unique needs may include: Trust-Based/Trauma Responsive parenting models, parent support groups and respite care.


      Medicaid-Funded Services

      Individuals impacted by FASDs may be eligible for Medicaid-funded services that support children and adults with developmental disabilities.

      Educators play an important role in identifiying behaviors in students that may be associated with FASDs and learning strategies that support students with FASD to help them reach their full potential.

      Visit the Colorado Department of Education web section on FASD. 

      Frequently Asked Questions

      Proof Aliance, while a nonprofit focused on prevention and support of families impacted by FASD in Minnesota, has wonderful FAQ section on FASD.

      Basics about FASDs & Secondary Conditions

      Proof Aliance, while a nonprofit focused on prevention and support of families impacted by FASD in Minnesota, has wonderful FAQ section on FASD.

      Cost of FASDs

      The lifetime cost for one individual with FAS in 2002 was estimated to be $2 million. This is an average for people with FAS and does not include data on people with other FASDs. People with severe problems, such as profound intellectual disability, have much higher costs. It is estimated that the cost to the United States for FAS alone is over $4 billion annually.

      Alcohol & Pregnancy

      Alcohol in the mother’s blood passes to the baby through the umbilical cord. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and a range of lifelong physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities. The CDC provides more information on alcohol and pregnancy. 

      Get Involved

      Illuminate Colorado is home to the Colorado Chapter of FASD United, the leading voice and resource of the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders community.

      In addition, Illuminate provides backbone support to the SuPPoRT Colorado Steering Committee, envisioning a Colorado that equitably serves all families through prevention and reduction of substance use during pregnancy and provides multigenerational support for families to thrive. Building Colorado’s statewide capacity to identify Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and support impacted families is a priority of this collaborative.


      Contact Kelli Sutton, Strategic Initiatives Manager

      1. .Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alcohol Use in Pregnancy.
      2. MedlinePlus. Fetal Development.
      3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Early Brain Development and Health.
      4. May, P. A., Chambers, C. D., & Kalberg, W. O. (2018). Prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders in 4 US Communities. JAMA, 319(5):474-482. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.21896
      5. Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2018). The risk and prevention of maltreatment of children with disabilities. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau.

      Help Strengthen Families & Communities

      We all share a responsibility to ensure that children have the opportunity to reach their full potential. 


      Learn About Our Work

      Our children are our future employees, leaders and neighbors. No matter where they live, children need high-quality experiences and loving relationships to support healthy development.

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