Millions of pregnant women may be exposing developing babies to alcohol
An estimated 3.3 million women between the ages of 15 and 44 years are at risk of exposing their developing baby to alcohol because they are drinking, sexually active, and not using birth control to prevent pregnancy, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Vital Signs report released today. The report also found that 3 in 4 women who want to get pregnant as soon as possible do not stop drinking alcohol when they stop using birth control.
No known safe amount
Alcohol use during pregnancy, even within the first few weeks and before a woman knows she is pregnant, can cause lasting physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities that can last for a child’s lifetime. These disabilities are known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). There is no known safe amount of alcohol – even beer or wine – that is safe for a woman to drink at any stage of pregnancy.
“Alcohol can permanently harm a developing baby before a woman knows she is pregnant,” said CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat, M.D. “About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and even if planned, most women won’t know they are pregnant for the first month or so, when they might still be drinking. The risk is real. Why take the chance?”
What doctors can do
Healthcare providers should advise women who want to become pregnant to stop drinking alcohol as soon as they stop using birth control. Most women don’t know they are pregnant until they are four to six weeks into the pregnancy and could unknowingly be exposing their developing baby to alcohol. FASDs are completely preventable if a woman does not drink alcohol during pregnancy.