Although many health professionals warn that drinking alcohol during pregnancy poses risks to the developing fetus, about 1 in 13 pregnant women do so and 1 in 70 binge drink.
In a report released today by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), researchers analyzing 2006-2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data from 345 076 women aged 18 to 44 years estimated that 7.6% of pregnant women had at least 1 alcoholic beverage in the 30 days prior to being surveyed and 1.4% of pregnant women had at least 1 binge drinking session (4 or more drinks) during that time frame. An estimated 51.5% of nonpregnant women used alcohol.
The CDC report noted that animal studies have found binge-like drinking patterns are particularly dangerous to the fetus, especially with respect to fetal brain development. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, which include fetal alcohol syndrome, alcohol-related birth defects, and alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder, are associated with alcohol consumption patterns such as binge drinking and are estimated to affect at least 1% of all births in the United States.
The report authors suggest that public health interventions, such as alcohol screening, brief interventions, and community-level policy interventions (eg, increasing alcohol excise taxes, limiting the number of businesses selling alcohol in any one area), can help reduce alcohol misuse by pregnant and nonpregnant women of childbearing age.
In 2005, the US Surgeon General issued an advisory urging women who are pregnant or who might become pregnant to abstain from alcohol use. And while recent studies suggest low and moderate drinking in early pregnancy has no adverse effects on children at age 5 years, the CDC and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists both call for total abstinence from alcohol consumption for women who are pregnant or who are planning on becoming pregnant.