About FASD

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is a diagnostic term for a neurodevelopmental disorder caused by exposure to alcohol before birth. The main effects from this exposure are to the brain but alcohol can also affect other parts of the body.

A diagnosis of FASD requires evidence of alcohol exposure before birth and severe impairment in at least three of ten specified domains of central nervous system structure or function. Not everyone who is exposed to alcohol before birth is able to be diagnosed with FASD, but they may still have impairments caused by alcohol.

People who have FASD, or suspected FASD, can experience complex physical, behavioural, learning and intellectual problems that persist throughout their lives. Impairment also varies between people depending on when and how much alcohol was consumed during the development of their brain and other parts of their bodies before they were born.

Although FASD is preventable, many pregnancies are unplanned and damage from alcohol exposure may happen before a woman knows she is pregnant and stops drinking alcohol.

Health NZ and the Ministry of Health advises to stop drinking alcohol if you could be pregnant, are pregnant or are trying to get pregnant. There is no known safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

There is no data on the prevalence of FASD in New Zealand, but international studies and expert opinion suggest that around 3 to 5 percent of people may be affected by the effects of alcohol exposure before birth. This implies that around 1800-3000 babies may be born with FASD each year in New Zealand.

If you know of something that should be included on this list, send it to Harsh.Vardhan@health.govt.nz.

New Zealand publications

Ministry of Health

Health Promotion Agency

Prevalence publications



United States



New Zealand



United States