July 26, 2019

1 in 9 U.S. Women Report Drinking Alcohol While Pregnant

But no level of alcohol is safe for moms-to-be

Pregnant woman out with friends at bar drinking alcohol

Alcohol exposure during pregnancy can be harmful to a developing baby’s brain. Yet, a recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows as many as 1 in 9 U.S. women reported drinking alcohol while pregnant.


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Researchers looked at data on pregnant women between the ages of 18 to 44 from 2015 to 2017.

Not only did about 10% of pregnant women report using alcohol, but about one third of them reported binge-drinking (which was defined as having four or more drinks in one occasion).

Ob/Gyn Salena Zanotti, MD, says no level of alcohol is safe during pregnancy. Yet these numbers were up from the last time this survey was performed, which she finds surprising.

Awareness needed: It’s not OK

“We, as a society, need to talk about this more,” Dr. Zanotti says. “I think we all assume that pregnant women don’t drink alcohol. But what this survey shows us is that it’s very common.

I think we — community-wide — need to talk about this and make women aware that this is not okay to do during pregnancy.

Alcohol use during pregnancy has been linked to miscarriage, stillbirth and developmental problems with babies, she notes.

Understanding fetal alcohol syndrome

Drinking during pregnancy is responsible for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, which are a range of outcomes resulting from alcohol’s impact on a developing baby’s brain.

Dr. Zanotti says the effects of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders can have life-long consequences.

“Even a little bit of alcohol could affect your child’s development when they’re older,” she says. “Yes, they may look normal when they are born — and act normally initially — but what we’re concerned about are the long-term effects on kids after they are school-aged.”


Dr. Zanotti adds that despite the prevalence of marijuana becoming legal in some states, it’s important for women to know the data shows that this is also not safe to use while pregnant. The bottom line? No level of alcohol or marijuana is safe for a developing baby, she says.

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