Prenatal exposure to alcohol, tobacco and other substances can cause birth defects and permanent intellectual or developmental disabilities. Although all of these substances are harmful to a developing fetus, alcohol has the strongest influence.
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is an umbrella term to describe neurological and behavioral effects caused by prenatal alcohol exposure, including:
- Fetal alcohol syndrome
- Partial fetal alcohol syndrome
- Alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder
- Alcohol-related birth defects
Prenatal exposure is most harmful during the first trimester, often before many mothers know they are pregnant. It is safest not to drink at any time during pregnancy or while trying to become pregnant. All types of alcohol are equally harmful to a developing baby.
Several protective factors can improve outcomes for people with FASD, such as nurturing caregiving, early diagnosis and intervention, absence of violence, a stable home environment, and access to social and educational services. Several HHS programs support families with these protective factors, such as Early Childhood Intervention, Medicaid and Navigate Life Texas.
Prevention and Education Resources
- ODPC has an educational flyer on FASD available for download. The flyer contains basic information on the risks of prenatal alcohol exposure and available resources in Texas.
- The Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment should be used during well woman exams to prevent prenatal alcohol and substance exposure. Recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and SAMHSA, SBIRT provides early intervention and referral to treatment for people with substance use disorders and those at risk of developing these disorders.
- CHOICES, an evidence-based counseling intervention recommended by the CDC, helps non-pregnant women reduce or stop alcohol use, use contraception effectively, or both.
- The Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Toolkit was developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics to raise awareness, promote surveillance and screening, and ensure that affected children receive appropriate and timely interventions.
Services and Treatment Resources for Women
- Healthy Texas Women benefits include health screenings, treatment for certain conditions and contraception.
- Family Planning Program benefits include health screenings, contraception and family planning counseling.
- Substance Use Disorder Treatment Services can be accessed through outreach, screening, assessment and referral centers, local mental health authorities, or contacting 211 Texas by dialing 2-1-1 or 877-541-7905.
Services and Resources for Children
Below is a list of several resources available at HHS that can help support children with IDD:
- Early Childhood Intervention is a statewide program in Texas for families with children birth to 36 months with developmental delays, disabilities or certain medical conditions that affect development.
- YourTexasBenefits.com helps you apply for Medicaid and get care for children with disabilities, including basic medical services, long-term services and supports, service coordination, service planning and transition planning. Read more about insurance and financial help for children with disabilities at Navigate Life Texas.
- Children with Special Health Care Needs Services Program helps children with their medical care, mental health care, special therapies and much more. Call 800-252-8023 to learn more.
- There are many other programs that might help you or your child so if you do not find what you are looking for, we encourage you to call 2-1-1 or visit the 2-1-1 website.