One in 10 pregnant women in the U.S. admit to drinking alcohol at least every now and then, and nearly one in 33 admitted to at least one episode of binge drinking, according to a new report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention published Thursday in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
U.S. health officials have set a goal to eliminate binge-drinking by pregnant women all together and to reduce other drinking to only 2 percent, LA Times reports. Unfortunately, these findings don’t align with those goals.
The authors of the report, who work in the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities and the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, wrote that there “is a need for a comprehensive approach to reduce alcohol use and binge drinking among pregnant women.”
Researchers drew their conclusions from data collected between 2011 and 2013 included in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Interviewers contacted a random sample of pregnant women across the country and they received responses from 200,000 women between the ages of 18 and 44 who said they were pregnant.
Surely many of the women knew they that drinking during pregnancy puts their child at risk. The CDC says that the women are putting their children at risk of fetal alcohol syndrome, NBC News reports, and there is not a known safe level of alcohol use during pregnancy.
Alcohol goes from the mother to the fetus, so experts advise pregnant women or potentially-pregnant women to avoid it. Cheryl Tan, epidemiologist in CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, said that “all types of alcohol should be avoided, including red or white wine, beer and liquor.”
Tan and her colleagues wrote in the CDC’s report that “excessive alcohol use is a risk factor for a wide range of health and social problems including liver cirrhosis, certain cancers, depression, motor vehicle crashes, and violence,” NBC reports.
This is not new information. Women have been advised to abstain from drinking since 1981. But the more educated the women were, the more likely they were to admit to drinking.
Thirteen percent of pregnant college graduates said they had a drink in the 30 days prior to the interview whereas 7.7 percent of high school dropouts said they’d had a drink.
Additionally, 18.6 percent of pregnant women ages 35 to 44 said they’d consumed alcohol in the past month. For every other age category, the percentage remained between 8 and 10 percent.
Researchers also found that unmarried women were more likely to drink during pregnancy than married women. And women with jobs were more likely to drink than unemployed women expecting.
Drinking on occasion is one thing, but binge drinking? That’s worse.
The BRFSS survey found that 3.1 percent of women had been binge-drinking, or had more four or more drinks in one sitting, in the previous month. And binge-drinkers who were pregnant had more to drink than binge-drinkers who weren’t. Pregnant women averaged 4.6 binge-drinking instances whereas non-pregnant women averaged 3.1, according to the report.
On the bright side, some of the women were probably in the earliest weeks of pregnancy and hadn’t realized it yet, the researchers wrote. The researchers discovered that 53.6 percent of women consumed alcohol before they knew they were pregnant, but after they found out, that number dropped to 10.2 percent.
Perhaps the most disturbing part about all of this is that the women who took the survey were probably underestimating how much they’d had to drink, according to LA Times.