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.

Frequently Asked Questions About Alcohol & Pregnancy

planning your pregnancy frequently asked questions

No Safe Kind

What’s the big deal with drinking alcohol during pregnancy? Is it really that serious?

Alcohol is a teratogen that crosses the placenta and can damage the central nervous system and other organs of the developing embryo or fetus. 1-2 No more than two hours after maternal ingestion, the blood alcohol level of the fetus is the same as or higher than the mothers.3

Alcohol use during pregnancy is the leading preventable cause of birth defects in the United States.4 Prenatal alcohol exposure can cause a number of birth defects, including:

  • microcephaly (a condition in which the baby’s head and brain are significantly smaller than expected)5, 6
  • abnormal facial development in the lip, mid-face, and eyes7
  • structural brain defects.8, 9

This is a major public health issue, as the most recent data (2019) states that 1 in 9 pregnancies are exposed to alcohol.10Proof Alliance is working to get that number to 0, and we hope you will join our efforts by promoting and celebrating alcohol-free pregnancies.

Is a little wine safe during pregnancy? At least it’s not hard liquor! 

Alcohol is alcohol, and one type of alcohol is not less harmful to an embryo or fetus than another.11 All types of alcohol – including red wine, white wine, wine coolers, hard cider, beer, and hard liquor – contain chemicals (known as teratogens) that can impact fetal development and cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), a brain-based permanent disability with wide ranging, lifelong effects. 12-15 The safest choice is not to drink any type of alcohol during pregnancy.

What if my partner drinks?

Your partner’s alcohol use cannot cause your child to be born with an FASD; the only known cause of FASD is prenatal alcohol exposure that occurs when a pregnant person drinks.16 However, a partner can be supportive by encouraging the pregnant person not to drink alcohol and by abstaining from alcohol themselves. Enjoy a delicious mocktail together and request alcohol-free drinks when you go to restaurants or social gatherings.

No Safe Time

Which trimester is it safest to drink alcohol?

Drinking alcohol at any stage of pregnancy (from conception to birth) poses a risk. Prenatal alcohol exposure as early as 3 weeks after conception can disrupt the development of the brain, spinal cord, and heart.17 The brain continues to develop throughout the entire pregnancy, and brain injury can be caused by prenatal alcohol exposure during the first, second, or third trimesters.18

I drank before I knew I was pregnant. Now what?

This is more common than one might think, as 40% of pregnancies in Minnesota are unplanned.19 If you’re able to, get regular prenatal check-ups and tell your health care provider you had alcohol during your pregnancy. Your health care provider should be able to address any questions or concerns you might have. You will also want to tell your child’s pediatrician that there was prenatal alcohol exposure so that they can monitor your child’s development for any abnormalities or concerns. In the meantime, the safest choice you can make is to stop drinking alcohol throughout the rest of your pregnancy. If you want additional support to help quit drinking, ask your health care provider about what resources and supports are available in your community.

Is it safe to drink alcohol in the third trimester because the fetus is already developed?

The fetus develops at a rapid rate throughout the entire pregnancy, including during the third trimester.20 Most importantly, the brain is developing from conception through birth and continues to develop even after the baby is born.21 Because of this, the safest choice is to abstain from alcohol throughout the entire pregnancy, including the third trimester.

Is it safe to drink while nursing?

Alcohol in breast milk can impact a baby’s sleep patterns, growth, and development.22 Because of this, the safest choice is not to drink while nursing and to choose an alcohol-free beverage instead. If you do choose to drink alcohol, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that it is safer to do so just after you have nursed or expressed milk rather than before American Academy of Pediatrics.23 The AAP also suggests waiting at least 2 hours per drink before the next nursing or pumping session.  If you or your partner are concerned about alcohol use while nursing, speak to your health care provider.

Has someone close to you said that they drank alcohol during pregnancy and their child appears healthy?

There are many factors that determine how prenatal alcohol exposure might affect a developing embryo or fetus. These factors include the genetics, nutrition, and age of the pregnant individual.24 These variables differ from person to person and even from pregnancy to pregnancy.  The safest choice will always be to not drink any alcohol throughout each pregnancy.25-29

It is also important to note that most people with an FASD do not have any observable physical characteristics.30 This makes it more difficult to determine if and how someone has been impacted by prenatal alcohol exposure. FASD is primarily a brain-based disability and therefore can impact things like behavior, learning, and memory.31-33 Some of the characteristics34 that can be associated with prenatal alcohol exposure include:

  • Hearing or vision problems35, 36
  • Difficulty in school37
  • Poor coordination38
  • Sensitivity to light, touch, or sound 39
  • Hyperactive behavior40
  • Difficulty paying attention41
  • Memory issues42
  • Poor social skills43
  • Impulsivity44
  • Poor reasoning and judgment skills45

If a person drank alcohol during pregnancy and is concerned that their child might be impacted by prenatal alcohol exposure, they can request an FASD assessment. Proof Alliance has a diagnostic clinic on-site. Click here for more information about FASD assessments.

No Safe Amount

How much alcohol can I safely drink during pregnancy?

To date, there is no research that has conclusively proven there is a safe amount of alcohol that a person can consume during pregnancy. Even drinking at low levels can affect fetal development.46 Although not all studies have detected effects at lower levels of alcohol use during pregnancy, harmful effects from prenatal alcohol exposure have been well-documented.47-49 The risks posted to the fetus increase as maternal alcohol use rises.50 Overall, the scientific community continues to advise that the healthiest and safest choice is to abstain from alcohol during pregnancy.51, 52

But I’ve heard others say, “It’s okay just to have one drink every now and then when you’re pregnant?”

Maybe your friends have said there’s no harm in having a drink every now and then during pregnancy, or you’ve read an article online that says something similar. With all of this different messaging, it can be confusing to know what information to trust. However, it is important to note that there have been no conclusive studies that can prove a “safe level” of alcohol use during pregnancy. Because of this, all major medical associations, including the World Health Organization53, the Centers for Disease Control54, the American Academy of Pediatrics55, and the U.S. Surgeon General56, recommend not drinking any alcohol if you are pregnant or might become pregnant. Alcohol is a teratogen and can cause permanent brain injury to a fetus.57-62

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD)

What is FASD?

FASD stands for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. FASD is a brain-based permanent disability that has wide-ranging effects.63, 64 Prenatal alcohol exposure alters the trajectory of brain development over the lifespan and may result in lifelong cognitive deficits related to executive function, learning, attention, language, and memory.65-69 There are many terms under the FASD umbrella, including these medical diagnoses:70

  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)
  • Alcohol Related Neuro-developmental Disorders (ARND)
  • Alcohol Related Birth Defects (ARBD)
  • Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS)

Is there a cure for FASD?

There currently is not a cure for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Because prenatal alcohol exposure alters the trajectory of brain development over the lifetime, the effects are lifelong.71-74 Even drinking at low levels can affect development.75

However, everyone with an FASD has the ability to succeed. Strategies, support, and interventions can help reduce the long-term effects of prenatal alcohol exposure and improve outcomes, behavior, and well-being for people with an FASD.73 Early intervention is especially effective in decreasing the risk of adverse life outcomes.77

Is FASD hereditary?

The only known cause of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) is alcohol use during pregnancy.78 If a pregnant person does not drink any alcohol throughout their entire pregnancy, their child will not be born with an FASD.

FASD cannot be “passed down” from a parent with an FASD, and it cannot be caused by a partner’s drinking. FASD can be prevented by not drinking any alcohol throughout pregnancy, from conception to birth. 79-83

How common is FASD?

In the United States, up to 1 in 20 children has a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).84 This makes FASD more common than spina bifida, anencephaly, and trisomy 18.85

  • Over 1 in 9 babies are born with prenatal alcohol exposure each year–that’s an estimated 8,000 a year in Minnesota.86, 87
  • Experts estimate that 3,400 of the children born in Minnesota each year will have an FASD.88
  • Recent research has found that there are no significant differences by race or ethnicity in FASD diagnoses.89

How would I know if I or my child have an FASD?

If you think that it’s possible that you or your child have an FASD, visit our Screening & Diagnosis page for help. You can also visit our Resource Directory to find the resources you need nearest to you.

For More Information

If you still have questions, please reach out to us at info@proofalliance.org

*Gender-specific language

Proof Alliance acknowledges that not every person who can become pregnant identifies as a woman. Although we try to use gender-neutral language as often as possible, much of the current research available currently refers only to “women” when discussing the ability to become pregnant. When citing this research, we refer to the language used in the study. In these cases, “woman” refers to someone who was assigned female at birth.

Sources:

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  67. Glass L, Mattson SN. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: A Case Study. J Pediatr Neuropsychol. 2017;3(2):114-135.
  68. 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.
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  87. 2017 Annual MN Births, Minnesota State Demographic Center X percentage of people ages 15-44 who report alcohol use during pregnancy, SAMHSA. (68,703  births*11.5%)
  88. 2015 Annual MN Births, Minnesota State Demographic Center X percentage of children estimated to have an FASD, May et al. JAMA study.(69,835 births*5%)
  89. May et al. Prevalence and Characteristics of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. Pediatrics. 2014;134(5).

Last updated: April 2019


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