CDC Study: One in 10 Pregnant Women Report Drinking Alcohol

CDC Study: One in 10 Pregnant Women Report Drinking Alcohol
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September 28, 2015

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report released this week says that one in 10 pregnant women between 18 and 44 reported drinking alcohol in the past 30 days. About 3 percent of pregnant women also reported binge drinking.

The findings, reported in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), are a snapshot of a concerning practice that can have a severe health impact on unborn children.

Drinking alcohol while pregnant can lead to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs), which is a group of conditions that can occur in a person whose mother drank during pregnancy. These conditions include physical disabilities, mental and developmental impairments, and learning disabilities. Since there is no known safe amount of alcohol, expectant mothers, or women who might be pregnant, are urged to abstain from drinking.

FASDs can only be prevented by not drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

Using 2011 to 2013 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data, researchers also found that pregnant women binge drink at a higher rate than non-pregnant women. Binge drinking is defined as having four or more alcoholic beverages in one occasion. Among women who reported binge drinking in the past 30 days, pregnant women reported 4.6 episodes, while non-pregnant women reported 3.1 episodes.

Among pregnant women, alcohol was highest among those between 35 and 44 (19 percent), college graduates (13 percent) and unmarried women (13 percent)

"We know that alcohol use during pregnancy can cause birth defects and developmental disabilities in babies, as well as an increased risk of other pregnancy problems, such as miscarriage, stillbirth, and prematurity," Coleen Boyle, director of CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, said in a statement. "This is an important reminder that women should not drink any alcohol while pregnant. It's just not worth the risk."

While the prevalence of any alcohol use and binge drinking among both pregnant and non-pregnant women is slightly higher than estimates from 2006 through 2010, the report notes that this is likely due to changes in how the surveys are conducted.

"Women who are pregnant or might be pregnant should be aware that there is no known safe level of alcohol that can be consumed at any time during pregnancy. All types of alcohol should be avoided, including red or white wine, beer, and liquor," study author and epidemiologist Cheryl Tan said in a statement.