About Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can seriously harm an unborn baby.


How big is the problem?


About 46,000 Albertans are currently impacted by FASD.

It is estimated that 9 in every 1,000 babies are born with FASD in Canada.

The annual cost of FASD in Alberta is about $927.5 million.


Given that 40% of pregnancies are reported to be unplanned, a significant number of unborn babies are at a high risk of prenatal exposure to alcohol. Though almost 90% of Albertans were aware of FASD, 9% of Alberta women reported drinking during their last pregnancy.

Statistics via the Alberta Government

What is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder?

Expecting Mother

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a preventable, lifelong disability resulting from prenatal exposure to alcohol.

There is no cure.

FASD is a diagnostic term used to describe a range of disabilities that may include physical birth defects and health problems including developmental delays, learning disabilities, memory problems, as well as difficulties in communicating feelings and understanding consequences.

How does FASD affect people?

FASD is a lifelong disability.

Individuals with FASD may require extensive support and services related to health, mental health, social services, education and training, justice, addictions, and family supports throughout their lives.

The affects of FASD may become more pronounced in an individual’s life into adulthood. There may be an increase in obstacles that creates difficulties from holding a steady job to drug and alcohol abuse through to crime and homelessness.

A key part of the transitioning stage from childhood to adulthood for an individual with FASD is to help them accept and understand the need for supportive and assisted living.

Young girl

Why is identifying FASD so important?

FASD is a medical diagnosis.

Between 2008 and 2014, 1,081 people accessed assessment and diagnosis services in Alberta.

By 2017, it is estimated that Albertans will access approximately 900 assessment and diagnosis services per year.


Effective diagnosis has become essential but also problematic, because the wide spectrum of cognitive disabilities witnessed makes it difficult to pinpoint a profile specific to FASD.

An early diagnosis not only better prepares the child and their family for difficulties in transitioning to young adulthood, but it also helps them qualify for appropriate supports and benefits. This translates into increased independence and fewer employment problems as an adult.

Early diagnosis can help build self-esteem within the child by increasing accessibility to appropriate school programs, counselling services and specialized community programs aimed at dealing with the challenges of living with FASD.

Education is not enough!

Prevention is the key!

The prevention conversation needs to shift from a woman’s substance use to how best to support a woman to have a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby.

Prevention means being conscious how a woman and her family manage choices and decisions around pregnancy and wellness. People thinking about getting pregnant are encouraged to talk to a healthcare provider or ask for more information about support and services in their community.

Prevention also means being conscious of how social expectations impact women’s health. Some women need support, care, and treatment to help them stop drinking during pregnancy. Walk with her!

For each prevented case of FASD, Albertans save about $800,000


Please help spread the word!

The better we understand the consequences of FASD, the more likely we are to prevent it.

Check out the  hashtag #FASDAwarenessDay  for more resources about FASD!

Learn more about Bissell’s Fetal Alcohol Spectrum of Services