Formerly known as MOFAS: Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Exciting News
from MOFAS

If you're looking for the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (MOFAS) you have come to the right place. We have some exciting news about our organization. We have a new name! MOFAS has officially been renamed Proof Alliance. Our mission remains the same: to prevent prenatal alcohol exposure and to improve the quality of life for people living with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD).

Why PR%F

We now have the proof that prenatal alcohol exposure is a leading cause of brain injury in children. We have the proof that FASD is 100% preventable and people living with an FASD can reach 100% of their potential.

Why Alliance?

We seek to build powerful alliances with people with an FASD, their families, legislators, experts in the field, new partners, and community members to bring awareness, research, and services to this field.

What's Next?

Proof Alliance is rebranding, expanding, and we're moving! We have a new logo, website, and prevention campaign to help change the norms around drinking during pregnancy. And in May 2019 we will be moving to a stand-alone building. Proof Alliance commits to the people of Minnesota and we will continue to develop transformative programs to help Minnesotans impacted by FASD.

Alcohol Use & Fetal Development

Alcohol Use and Fetal Development PDF

Alcohol Use and Fetal Development

Alcohol is a teratogen, which means that it is a substance that can harm a developing fetus.2, 3 Prenatal alcohol exposure can cause serious consequences for multiple organ systems in the fetus, and it is especially harmful to the central nervous system, including the brain.4 The brain is developing throughout the entire pregnancy5; because of this, prenatal alcohol exposure during any trimester can impact brain development. Prenatal alcohol exposure can cause brain lesions6, structural brain defects7-9, and microcephaly (a condition in which the baby’s head and brain are significantly smaller than expected).10, 11 These effects on brain development can lead to mild to severe disabilities.12 People with prenatal alcohol exposure may have cognitive impairments such as deficits in academic achievement, attention, behavior, cognition, language development, and memory.13

In addition to the effects on the brain, alcohol exposure during pregnancy can cause abnormalities in the heart14, abnormal facial development15, issues with the immune system16 (leading to increased risk of infections)17, difficulty with movement and motor skills18, and other physical health issues.

Because of the serious consequences that prenatal alcohol exposure can have on fetal development, all major medical organizations in the United States, including the Centers for Disease Control19, the American Academy of Pediatrics20, and the U.S. Surgeon General21 advise that if a person is pregnant or could become pregnant, they should abstain from drinking alcohol. There is no known safe level of alcohol use during pregnancy, and research suggests that even lighter levels of prenatal alcohol exposure can impact fetal development.22, 23 The safest choice is to not drink any alcohol throughout one’s entire pregnancy.

Prenatal Alcohol Exposure by Trimester

The following includes areas of development that can be impacted by prenatal alcohol exposure by trimester.24-36 This list does not include every aspect of fetal development that can be impacted but rather some of the major defects that are a result of PAE (prenatal alcohol exposure).

1st Trimester

  • Brain (including brain lesions, structural brain defects, and microcephaly)
  • Spinal cord
  • Heart
  • Abnormal facial development
  • Cognitive deficits
  • 12x increased risk of FASD

2nd Trimester

  • Brain (including brain lesions, structural brain defects, and microcephaly)
  • Spinal cord
  • Immune system (most significant effect if exposed during 2nd trimester)
  • Cognitive deficits
  • 61x increased risk of FASD (if PAE occurs during both 1st and 2nd trimester)

3rd Trimester

  • Brain (including brain lesions, structural brain defects, and microcephaly)
  • Spinal cord
  • Bone development
  • Cognitive deficits
  • 65x increased risk of FASD (if PAE occurs during all 3trimesters)

Sources: 

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. FASD Brochure: Final. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/documents/fasdbrochure_final.pdf
  2. Hong M, Krauss RS. Ethanol Itself is a Holoprosencephaly-inducing Teratogen. PloS One. 2017;12(4):e0176440.
  3. Mattson SN, Schoenfeld AM, Riley EP. Teratogenic Effects of Alcohol on Brain and Behavior. Alcohol Research & Health: The Journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. 2001;25(3):185-91.
  4. Burd L, Blair J, Dropps K. Prenatal Alcohol Exposure, Blood Alcohol Concentrations and Alcohol Elimination Rates for the Mother, Fetus and Newborn. Journal of Perinatology. 2012;32:652-659.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alcohol Use in Pregnancy. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/alcohol-use.html
  6. Girault V, et al. Prenatal Alcohol Exposure Impairs Autophagy in Neonatal Brain Cortical Microvessels. Cell Death & Disease. 2017; 8(e2610).
  7. Muralidharan P, Sarmah S, Feng C. Zhou, Marrs JA. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Associated Neural Defects: Complex Mechanisms and Potential Therapeutic Targets. Brain Sciences (2076-3425). 2013;3(2):964-991.
  8. Lewis SM, Vydrová RR, Leuthold AC, Georgopoulos AP. Cortical miscommunication after prenatal exposure to alcohol. Experimental Brain Research. 2016;234(11):3347-3353.
  9. Sharma VK, Hill SY. Differentiating the effects of familial risk for alcohol dependence and prenatal exposure to alcohol on offspring brain morphology. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. 2017;41(2):312-322.
  10. Treit S, Zhou D, Chudley AE, et al. Relationships between Head Circumference, Brain Volume and Cognition in Children with Prenatal Alcohol Exposure. PLoS ONE. 2016;11(2):1-15.
  11. Feldman HS, et al. Prenatal Alcohol Exposure Patterns and Alcohol-Related Birth Defects and Growth Deficiencies: A Prospective Study. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2012;36(4):670-676.
  12. Noor S, Milligan ED. Lifelong Impacts of Moderate Prenatal Alcohol Exposure on Neuroimmune Function. Frontiers in Immunology. 2018.
  13. Flak AL, Su S, Bertrand J, Denny CH, Kesmodel US, Cogswell ME. The association of mild, moderate, and binge prenatal alcohol exposure and child neuropsychological outcomes: A Meta-analysis. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2014;38(1):214-26.
  14. Westrup, S. (2013). Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: as prevalent as autism?. Educational Psychology in Practice, 29(3), 309-325.
  15. Sawada Feldman H, Lyons Jones K, Lindsay S, et al. Prenatal Alcohol Exposure Patterns and Alcohol-Related Birth Defects and Growth Deficiencies: A Prospective Study. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. 2012;36(4):670-676.
  16. Gauthier TW. Prenatal Alcohol Exposure and the Developing Immune System. Alcohol Research: Current Reviews. 2015;37(2):e1-e7.
  17. Noor S, Milligan ED. Lifelong Impacts of Moderate Prenatal Alcohol Exposure on Neuroimmune Function. Frontiers in Immunology. 2018.
  18. Taggart TC, Simmons RW, Thomas JD, Riley EP. Children with Heavy Prenatal Alcohol Exposure Exhibit Atypical Gait Characteristics. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. 2017;41(9):1648-1655.
  19. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs). https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/alcohol-use.html
  20. American Academy of Pediatrics. AAP Says No Amount of Alcohol Should Be Considered Safe During Pregnancy. https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/AAP-Says-No-Amount-of-Alcohol-Should-be-Considered-Safe-During-Pregnancy.aspx
  21. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Notice to Readers: Surgeon General’s Advisory on Alcohol Use in Pregnancy. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5409a6.htm
  22. Terasaki LS, Schwarz JM. Impact of Prenatal and Subsequent Adult Alcohol Exposure on Pro-Inflammatory Cytokine Expression in Brain Regions Necessary for Simple Recognition Memory. Brain Sciences (2076-3425). 2017;7(10):1-16
  23. Flak AL, Su S, Bertrand J, Denny CH, Kesmodel US, Cogswell ME. The association of mild, moderate, and binge prenatal alcohol exposure and child neuropsychological outcomes: A Meta-analysis. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2014;38(1):214-26.
  24. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. FASD Brochure: Final. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/documents/fasdbrochure_final.pdf
  25. Lebel C, Roussotte F, Sowell ER. Imaging the Impact of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure on the Structure of the Developing Human Brain. Neuropsychol Rev. 2011;21:102-118.
  26. Girault V, et al. Prenatal Alcohol Exposure Impairs Autophagy in Neonatal Brain Cortical Microvessels. Cell Death & Disease. 2017; 8(e2610).
  27. Muralidharan P, Sarmah S, Feng C. Zhou, Marrs JA. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Associated Neural Defects: Complex Mechanisms and Potential Therapeutic Targets. Brain Sciences (2076-3425). 2013;3(2):964-991.
  28. Lewis SM, Vydrová RR, Leuthold AC, Georgopoulos AP. Cortical miscommunication after prenatal exposure to alcohol. Experimental Brain Research. 2016;234(11):3347-3353.
  29. Sharma VK, Hill SY. Differentiating the effects of familial risk for alcohol dependence and prenatal exposure to alcohol on offspring brain morphology. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. 2017;41(2):312-322.
  30. Treit S, Zhou D, Chudley AE, et al. Relationships between Head Circumference, Brain Volume and Cognition in Children with Prenatal Alcohol Exposure. PLoS ONE. 2016;11(2):1-15.
  31. Feldman HS, et al. Prenatal Alcohol Exposure Patterns and Alcohol-Related Birth Defects and Growth Deficiencies: A Prospective Study. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2012;36(4):670-676.
  32. Sawada Feldman H, Lyons Jones K, Lindsay S, et al. Prenatal Alcohol Exposure Patterns and Alcohol-Related Birth Defects and Growth Deficiencies: A Prospective Study. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. 2012;36(4):670-676.
  33. Bake S, Tingling JD, Miranda RC. Ethanol Exposure During Pregnancy Persistently Attenuates Cranially Directed Blood Flow in the Developing Fetus: Evidence from Ultrasound Imaging in a Murine Second Trimester Equivalent Model. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. 2012;36:748-758
  34. May PA et al. Maternal alcohol consumption producing fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD): quantity, frequency, and timing of drinking. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 2013; 133(2): 502-512.
  35. Gauthier TW. Prenatal Alcohol Exposure and the Developing Immune System. Alcohol Research: Current Reviews. 2015;37(2):e1-e7.
  36. Sawant OB, Ramadoss J, Hogan HA, Washburn SE. The role of acidemia in maternal binge alcohol-induced alterations in fetal bone functional properties. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2013;37(9):1476-82.

Last updated: May 2019

Share this page:

Support &
Resources

Women &
Pregnancy

Training &
Webinars