New CDC Study Finds 1 In 13 Pregnant Women Consume Alcohol
Despite repeated warnings from healthcare professionals about the dangers of drinking during pregnancy, a new study reveals that as many as 1 in 13 pregnant women, or about 8 percent of expectant mothers, consume alcohol.
The study, published in the July 20 issue of the CDC's journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, finds that 51.5% of non-pregnant women ages 18 to 44 said they had used alcohol in the past 30 days. Among pregnant women of that age, 7.6% said they had used alcohol in the previous month, and 1.4% described themselves as binge drinkers--defined as four or more drinks at a time.
When it came to frequency and intensity of alcohol use, pregnant and non-pregnant women reported similar rates. Both groups said they went on binges about three times a month and had about six drinks per binge. Lower levels of education and marital status were associated with an increased frequency and intensity of binge drinking among all women, with binge drinking levels higher among unmarried women (3.3 times per month and 6.4 drinks per occasion) than among married women (2.6 times per month and 5.4 drinks per occasion).
Meanwhile, the highest rates of alcohol use among pregnant women occurred in those who were aged 35 to 44 (14.3 percent), college graduates (10 percent), employed (9.6 percent), or white (8.3 percent).
The study, led by Claire Marchetta of the CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, underscores the importance of educating all women, particularly pregnant women, on the dangers of alcohol use.
“If you're pregnant or even thinking about getting pregnant, stop drinking alcohol," the March of Dimes warned on its website. "Alcohol includes wine, wine coolers, beer and liquor. There is no amount of alcohol that is proven to be safe."
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy is the leading preventable cause of birth defects and developmental disabilities, and can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome and other fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, which result in neurological problems and lifelong disabilities in children.
While drinking among pregnant women remains an important public health issue, researchers urge continued education and support, saying "pregnant and non-pregnant women of childbearing age who misuse alcohol might benefit from public health interventions such as increased alcohol taxes and limiting the number of alcohol outlets in neighborhoods."
[image via Los Angeles Times]