Pregnant Women Admit to Binge-Drinking

Despite doctors' warnings, many pregnant women are still consuming alcohol, according to a new report from the CDC—and some are doing so in vast quantities.

Pregnant Women Admit to Binge-Drinking ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock

If a woman's not drinking on a social occasion, the first thing others think is that she's pregnant, because women don't drink alcohol during pregnancy, right? A new survey from the CDC shows that actually, one in 10 pregnant women in the U.S. reported drinking alcohol in the past 30 days. Even more shocking, about a third of those pregnant women who consume alcohol said they binge drink—defined as four or more drinks at one time.

The CDC's study used data collected by phone from pregnant women 18-44 years old in the U.S., and surprisingly, alcohol use was highest among older women 35-44 years old (18.6 percent). For comparison, the study found that one in two (53.6 percent) non-pregnant women drank alcohol in the past 30 days, and 18.2 percent reported binge drinking.

Is it ever safe to drink?

Doctors just don't know exactly how much alcohol can affect baby—even small amounts could cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs), a group of conditions causing developmental disabilities that's estimated to affect between 2-5 percent of children ages 6-7. Because it wouldn't be safe to study the effects of different amounts of alcohol on babies, the only recommendation is just to avoid it all together. "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," says Cheryl Tan, M.P.H., lead author of the study and an epidemiologist at 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."

A completely preventable disease

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) are one hundred percent avoidable—just don't drink if you are pregnant."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," says 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."

If you already consumed alcohol before you knew you were pregnant, chances are your baby is OK, but you should stop drinking now. If you are struggling with alcohol addiction, talk to your doctor about treatments and programs for quitting that may be right for you.