The Neurodevelopmental Consequences of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure

Elizabeth Welch-Carre, RN, MSN, NNP


Adv Neonatal Care. 2005;5(4):217-229. 

In This Article


Prenatal alcohol exposure can cause significant harm to the human fetus. It is the leading preventable cause of birth defects, developmental disorders, and mental retardation. It is a public health concern throughout much of the world. The long-term neurodevelopmental manifestations of PAE are often the most devastating for individuals both with and without the typical facial features of FAS.

Prevention of PAE is the goal. The nurse plays a part in prevention through the education of all women of childbearing age about the risks associated with PAE. Early diagnosis of FASD increases the chances of a positive long-term outcome for the child. The intensive care nursery nurse, who often has extended contact with mothers at the bedside, is well positioned to obtain a detailed history, to alert the medical team of PAE, and to ensure that the medical record accurately reflects PAE. Once a diagnosis is established, ongoing assessment of parenting skills and educational needs, anticipatory guidance, and modeling of advocacy skills, as well as referrals for early intervention and community support services, are essential elements of care.[61]


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