Survey Says 10% Of Women Drink During Pregnancy

By McCarton Ackerman 09/28/15

Despite the known risks, some pregnant women still decide to drink.

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We all know the risk of drinking during pregnancy, but that isn’t stopping plenty of expecting mothers from doing it. New findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that one in 10 pregnant women in the United States report drinking alcohol.

The study, which surveyed over 200,000 women between 2011-13, 8,000 of whom were pregnant, also showed that just over 3% of those surveyed reported binge drinking during their pregnancy. Binge drinking was defined as consuming four or more drinks in one sitting. Although this rate is similar to that of non-pregnant women, the pregnant women reported more frequent episodes of binge drinking.

Among the pregnant women in the study, alcohol use was highest for those between ages 35 to 44 (18.6%). College graduates and unmarried women also reported high rates (13%) of drinking during pregnancy.

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

Heavy drinking by pregnant women can result in fetal alcohol syndrome, which often results in learning disabilities in their child, as well as behavioral or physical problems. The CDC study noted that 2-5% of first-grade students in the U.S. may have disorders related to fetal alcohol syndrome.

Because of this and other reasons, the American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that there is no safe amount of alcohol for pregnant women to drink. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists hold the same position. Although the Mayo Clinic acknowledges that “the safest bet is to avoid alcohol entirely,” their position also states that one drink is unlikely to harm an unborn child.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.