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Alcohol & Drug-Related Birth Defects Awareness Week

Did you know, that in the US, about 1 million pregnant women smoke cigarettes and another 750,000 women drink alcohol during pregnancy?  An additional 225,000 women use an illicit drug at least once while pregnant.

Not only are these statistics alarming, but fetal alcohol syndrome disorders (FASD) are the leading known cause of developmental disabilities in newborns.  Features of FASD children include:

  • growth deficiency before and after birth
  • developmental delays
  • intellectual challenges
  • behavioral problem
  • changes in facial features such as a flattened midface, small jaw and/or a thin upper lip

Tobacco exposure during pregnancy can cause:

One common illicit drug used during pregnancy is cocaine.  Perinatal cocaine exposure can result in complications such as:

  • low birth weight
  • smaller head circumference
  • abnormal neonatal behavior
  • cerebral infarction at birth
  • ADHD
  • a variety of visual and perceptual problems
  • difficulties with fine motor skills.

1babyinyellowDespite disheartening prognoses, there is hope.  The fewer number of women who abuse alcohol, tobacco, or illicit drugs, the fewer infants and children will suffer from these complications.

The Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation has two programs focusing on substance use prevention during pregnancy. First Breath assists women with tobacco cessation, while My Baby & Me aims to provide women with alcohol education.  For more information about our programs, please visit www.wwhf.org.



  • For more information on alcohol and other drug-related birth defects, take a look at this NCADD fact sheet.
  • For tips on birth defect prevention from the CDC, click here.


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