Identifying Maternal Self-Reported Alcohol Use Associated With Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

Authors

  • Helen M. Barr,

    1. Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Fetal Alcohol and Drug Unit, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington.
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  • Ann P. Streissguth

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Fetal Alcohol and Drug Unit, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington.
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  • Supported by US Public Health Service Grant R37 AA01455–01–25 from the NIAAA (APS).

Reprint requests: Ann P. Streissguth, PhD, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Box 359112, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195; Fax: 206-685-2903; E-mail: jp43@u.washington.edu

Abstract

Background: The incidence of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) has been estimated at 1 to 3 per 1000 live births. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) (which include FAS) are estimated to occur in about 1 in 100 births. Cessation of drinking during pregnancy can improve the outcome even if the unborn child is already affected. For individuals born with FASD, an early diagnosis appears to be a protective factor against secondary disabilities. A quick screening tool to identify newborn children at risk has been elusive.

Methods: A simple descriptive presentation is offered that shows where 36 individuals with FASD were found from among the many patterns and amounts of prenatal alcohol use that were reported by a sample of 1439 pregnant women whose offspring were later e-amined within the first 7 years of life.

Results: Individuals with FASD (i.e., those with FAS, fetal alcohol effects, alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder) were found within two aggregates of alcohol scores that together recommend a set of three to four alcohol questions. Within this derivation sample, one scoring of the questions yields almost 78% sensitivity and 97% specificity for FASD. Another scoring of the same instrument yields 100% sensitivity with 90% specificity.

Conclusions: These new data may facilitate early identification of offspring who may be most in need of early intervention, namely those born with FASD.

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