PhotoPregnant women are drinking too much. How much is too much? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, any alcohol during pregnancy is risky, but binge drinking is off the charts.

And yet, a recent study finds that 3.1 percent of pregnant women report binge drinking -- defined as four or more alcoholic drinks in a single session. Fully ten percent of pregnant women say they have had at least one drink in the last month.

“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, Ph.D., 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.”

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) are a group of conditions that can occur in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. FASDs are completely preventable: if a woman does not drink alcohol during pregnancy, her child has zero risk of a FASD.

MMWR findings

The findings come from a report in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

The study used data from CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a state-based, landline, and cell phone survey of the U.S. population. To estimate the prevalence of alcohol use and binge drinking, researchers used 2011-2013 data for all 50 states and the District of Columbia for women aged 18-44 years.

Among pregnant women, alcohol use was highest among:

  • Those aged 35-44 years (18.6 percent);
  • College graduates (13 percent); and
  • Unmarried women (12.9 percent).

“Women who are pregnant or might be pregnant should be aware that there is no known safe level of alcohol that can be consumed at any time during pregnancy. All types of alcohol should be avoided, including red or white wine, beer, and liquor,” said Cheryl Tan, M.P.H., lead author of the study and an epidemiologist in CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.


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