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Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

síndrome alcohòlic fetal  Vall d Hebron


Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD) is characterised by cognitive, behavioural and physical problems caused by exposure to alcohol during pregnancy.

FASD may result in physical symptoms (such as facial abnormalities), growth retardation, damage to the nervous system and cognitive and/or behavioural problems. 90% of people with FASD suffer from psychological disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) being the most common.






The main symptoms of FASD are poor memory and attention span, learning difficulties, problems with recognising cause and effect and lack of social skills and emotional self-regulation. These issues may lead to secondary complications such as poor academic performance, legal issues, inappropriate sexual behaviour, substance abuse and problems finding employment as an adult.


Who is affected by the disease?

Babies exposed to alcohol in the womb.



FASD diagnosis requires not just physical examination but also neurocognitive and behavioural assessment.


Typical treatment

Treatment for FASD is multidisciplinary and often requires a combination of psychology and pharmacology. The psychological approaches shown to be most effective are based on training in social skills, emotional self-regulation and guidelines for parents on how to manage the conflicts involved in having a child with FASD. Appropriate interventions for FASD also involve relevant adjustments to the child’s education.

Psychological monitoring should include both the patient and their parents or guardians. The psychological treatments available include: group treatment (for teenagers and parents), one-to-one psychological treatment and assisted therapy with dogs.

Interventions are based on the age of the child/teenager and their cognitive difficulties. Before any psychological intervention, a neuropsychological assessment must be performed to indicate which cognitive functions the patient has most difficulty with. Treatment can then be adapted to their abilities and carers can manage their expectations and adapt the child/teenager’s environment according to their behaviour.


Most typical tests

Clinical history. Psychological interview. Neuropsychological examination. Physical examination and in some cases MRI and EEG tests.



The best way to prevent FASD is to avoid drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Patients with this syndrome have the best prognosis when diagnosed early (before 6 years old) and within a stable family environment.


Who should I consult?

Your GP or paediatrician can refer you to the Psychiatry Department.


Notable professionals at Vall d’Hebron who treat this condition

Nuria Gómez-Barros

Raquel Vidal Estrada

Ana Maria Cueto González




Related professionals
Dr. Josep Antoni
Ramos Quiroga
Head of Department
Lead Researcher
Psychiatry, Mental Health and Addictions