Alcohol is known to cause birth defects and serious developmental disabilities in babies, yet 10 percent of pregnant women in the United States say they drink and 3.1 percent of pregnant women say they indulge in binge drinking, causing concern among health officials who say any amount of drinking among pregnant women is harmful, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Eighteen percent of pregnant women age 35 and older admitted drinking alcohol in the past 30 days, the CDC said in a news report released Thursday.
“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.”
Among women who reported binge drinking in the past 30 days, a significantly higher rate of pregnant women indulged in binge drinking than non-pregnant women (4.6 and 3.1 episodes, respectively). Binge drinking is defined as drinking four or more alcoholic beverages on one occasion, according to the CDC.
When a pregnant woman drinks, alcohol travels through the placenta into the fetus, which doesn’t have the capacity to break it down, according to the U.S. News & World Report. Two to 5 percent of first-grade students in the U.S. might have disorders related to fetal alcohol syndrome.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reported that there is no safe amount of alcohol for a pregnant woman to consume despite the general perception that a small amount is safe, the news network reported.
Evidence-based research shows that even drinking small amounts of alcohol while pregnant can lead to problems such as miscarriage, stillbirth and sudden infant death syndrome, the organization said. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also has this belief, according to the U.S. News & World Report.
The prevalence of any alcohol use and binge drinking among pregnant and non-pregnant women is slightly higher than the estimates reported for 2006-2010, the CDC said. However, they said this might be due to changes such as the addition of cell phone surveys, rather than actual shifts in the prevalence of alcohol use.
“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,” 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. “All types of alcohol should be avoided, including red or white wine, beer, and liquor.”