Q: If my child has none of the facial features of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, does this mean we are home free and that he does not have it?
A: Oh, if only it were so easy. Unfortunately, although looking for the distinctive “face of FAS” (the relatively minor facial abnormalities used to diagnosis FAS) is still the best way to help pre-adoptive parents determine the risk that their referred child will have FAS, it is not the definitive diagnosis. Doctors would love to have a record of maternal alcohol consumption in order to diagnosis this complex syndrome, but that is almost never available in any form of adoption. In international adoption, it is seldom asked and in domestic adoption, according to Dr. Julian Davies, drinking during pregnancy is grossly underreported. On the Creating a Family show, Dr. Julian Davies, a pediatrician with both the University of Washington’s Center for Adoption Medicine and their FAS Clinic, said that the facial features result from excessive alcohol consumption on Day 19, 20, and 21 of a pregnancy. If the mother did not drink during those days, it is possible for the baby to not show the stereotypical facial features, but to still be impacted. After adoption, look for evidence of growth impairment and brain damage to help with a diagnosis.Image credit: Lotus Carroll