Pregnant Women Should Not Drink Any Alcohol At All, Says New Report

By May Wilkerson 11/12/15

Despite the risks, some women in the U.S. continue to drink while pregnant.

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For pregnant women, the question of whether or not they can safely consume small quantities of alcohol has long been controversial. A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) claims women should abstain from any amount of alcohol altogether throughout their pregnancy in order to protect against risk of birth defects and developmental disorders.

"Earlier termination of alcohol use in pregnancy is associated with fewer alcohol-related complications for the mother and her baby," said the report, published in Pediatrics and written by Janet F. Williams, M.D., a professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas, and the AAP's Committee on Substance Abuse.

"Prenatal exposure to alcohol is the leading preventable cause of birth defects and developmental disabilities," said Williams. These birth defects, which fall under the umbrella term fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), may affect the heart, kidneys or bones, as well as hearing, and can lead to emotional and behavioral issues later on.

Specifically, the report found that mothers who drink during the first trimester are 12 times more likely to give birth to a child with FASD than mothers who do not drink at all. Drinking during both first and second trimester increases FASD odds by 61 times, and drinking in all trimesters increases FASD odds 65 times.

But despite these risks, one in 10 pregnant women in the United States consume alcohol during pregnancy, according to a recent study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Recent studies have suggested that lower levels of alcohol use might be safe during pregnancy, but the AAP disagrees, arguing that prevailing evidence suggests any amount of alcohol can put unborn babies at risk.

In the case of unplanned pregnancies, Williams says a woman should stop drinking as soon as she finds out she is pregnant. "No alcohol use during pregnancy guarantees that fetal alcohol spectrum disorders will not occur," she said.

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.