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Pregnant Women Are Frequent Binge Drinkers

Pregnant Women Are Frequent Binge Drinkers


The CDC, meanwhile, says women should not drink at all when they are pregnant.


About a third of women who drink alcohol during pregnancy binge drink, despite warnings that even small amounts of alcohol can be harmful.


Source: US News & World Report

By Kimberly Leonard

Sept. 24, 2015


A new government study reveals that women who are pregnant binge drink at a higher rate than women who are not – a pattern that can have harmful effects on a pregnancy and cause birth defects.


Binge drinking is defined as having more than than four drinks on a single occasion. While the data show that a higher percentage of women who are not pregnant binge drink (18.2 percent versus 3.1 percent), the frequency among pregnant women is cause for concern. About a third of women who drink during pregnancy engage in binge drinking, and pregnant women who reported binge drinking within the past month did so at a higher frequency than nonpregnant women, averaging 4.6 episodes versus 3.1.


Authors of the report caution that any amount of alcohol during pregnancy can be harmful. Still, it’s not uncommon for women to occasionally drink while pregnant, the report found, showing that 10.2 percent of pregnant women surveyed said they had a drink during the past month.


While there is a general perception among some Americans that a small amount of alcohol during pregnancy isn’t harmful, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and leading medical groups warn that no amount of alcohol has been proved safe for a pregnant woman.


When a pregnant woman drinks, alcohol travels through the placenta into a fetus, which doesn’t have the capacity to break it down. Heavy drinking can cause fetal alcohol syndrome, which can result in physical and behavioral problems in a child, as well as learning disabilities. According to the report, 2 to 5 percent of first-grade students in the U.S. might have disorders related to fetal alcohol syndrome.


Even light drinking while pregnant, say experts like the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, can cause lifelong learning and behavioral health problems in a child.


“This is an important reminder that women should not drink any alcohol while pregnant,” Coleen Boyle, director of the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, said in a statement. “It’s just not worth the risk.”


The American Academy of Pediatrics has also stated that there is no safe amount of alcohol for a pregnant woman to consume. “Evidence-based research states that even drinking small amounts of alcohol while pregnant can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity, or sudden infant death syndrome,” the organization says. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists holds the same position.


The last time the U.S. surgeon general issued an advisory on the topic was in 2005, when Dr. Richard Carmona urged women who are or might be pregnant not to drink alcohol.


The Mayo Clinic’s position is more moderate. It states that one drink isn’t likely to hurt a baby, but concludes that, “the safest bet is to avoid alcohol entirely.”


The new findings were published Thursday in the CDC’s weekly Morbidity and Mortality Report, which used data collected through a phone survey from 2011 to 2013.


The report also found that among pregnant women, alcohol use was highest among those ages 35 to 44, at 18.6 percent, and about the same for college graduates and unmarried women, at 13 percent.