The term fetal alcohol syndrome was first used in 1973 to describe the physical problems seen in the offspring of alcoholic women. There have been admonitions against women drinking during PREGNANCY for literally thousands of years—in biblical verses and in the writing of the ancient Greeks. The physical and social implications of women drinking during pregnancy first became highly noticeable during the gin epidemic of the 1750s. At that time, gin became a cheap and easily accessible beverage among low-income women. It was noted that there was a correlation between women who were consuming large amounts of gin and problems among their offspring.

A formal study was conducted in the 1890s by an English physician named Sullivan. He identified the offspring of 120 female ''drunkards'' in the Liverpool jail and compared them to the children of their nondrinking female relatives. From this study, Sullivan noted a perinatal mortality rate that was two and one half times higher in the offspring of the female alcoholics.

In 1968, Dr. Paul Lemoine published a study on the children of women alcoholics in a French medical journal. This article did not receive much attention until the landmark articles published in the Lancet by Jones, Smith, Ulleland, and Streissguth in 1973. Since 1973, more than five thousand articles have been published detailing the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure from birth through middle age. There can be no doubt that alcohol is a powerful teratogen (causative agent in fetal malformations) with lifelong after-effects (sequelae).

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