Alcohol and the Brain

Alcohol and the Brain

During pregnancy, alcohol readily crosses the placenta causing damage to the developing brain.  The Central Nervous System (which includes the brain) is one of the first systems to  develop; occuring even before a woman knows she is pregnant.  The brain and the central nervous system continue to develop throughout the entire pregnancy, and alcohol exposure at any time can cause brain damage. Exposure to alcohol during pregnancy can change the brain structurally, as well as functionally.  Often causing deficits in executive functioning, memory, concrete thinking, sensory integration, and sleep disturbances. This damage can lead to developmental delays, learning disabilities, and behavior problems, such as:

  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Problems with attention
  • Hyperactivity
  • Poor impulse control
  • Problems in social perception
  • Speech and language delays or deficits
  • Poor capacity for abstract thinking
  • Specific deficits in math skills
  • Poor judgment
  • Problems with cause and effect 
  • Problems anticipating consequences
  • Problems changing behavior or response in different situations

 Article: Prenatal Alcohol Exposure and the BRAIN
©2000 Teresa Kellerman (updated 2010)