Pregnant Women Still Drinking Too Much

Alcohol use among pregnant women still too high in US

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Despite years of warnings to expecting mothers, an estimated 1 percent of all babies born in the US have symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome, caused by alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

A recent report issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that there are still women who binge drink while pregnant, despite the risk this behavior poses to their unborn children.

"Don't drink while pregnant. Period."

Claire M. Marchetta, MPH, of the CDC, led colleagues in analyzing data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System from 2006 to 2010.

This system includes data from nationwide random-digit-dialing surveys of adults aged 18 and older. A total of 345,076 women were surveyed: 13,880 pregnant women and 331,196 non-pregnant women.

The data revealed that 51.5 percent of non-pregnant women and 7.6 pregnant women had drunk alcohol in the previous 30 days before taking the survey. Using alcohol was defined as having as little as a single drink of any alcoholic beverage in the previous 30 days.

Binge drinking, defined at at least four drinks on a single occasion in the past month, occurred among 15 percent of non-pregnant women and 1.4 percent of pregnant women.

Both these pregnant and non-pregnant women reported typically drinking at least six drinks during a single occasion an average of three times a month.

The age group that most commonly reported using alcohol while pregnant were those aged 35 to 44, 14.3 percent of whom said they had used alcohol while pregnant.

The other demographic attributes associated with a higher prevalence of drinking alcohol while pregnant were white women, college graduates and employed women.

While binge drinking and frequent or excessive alcohol use during pregnancy has been known to cause fetal alcohol syndrome and other complications or birth defects with babies, the evidence is less clear regarding occasional use of alcohol during pregnancy.

Some studies have found links to less serious symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome or cognitive and developmental delays in children with as few as a couple drinks a day by mom while pregnant.

Other studies have found that a daily glass of wine or other single drink during pregnancy does not appear to affect the children. Most health professionals recommend that women avoid alcohol during pregnancy to err on the side of caution.

The report was issued in the July 30 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report issued by the CDC.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 20, 2012
Last Updated:
February 1, 2013