Prenatal Alcohol and Substance Exposure

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.

For more information on FASD, visit the CDC's Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder webpages or the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Prevention and Education Resources

Services and Treatment Resources for Women

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.