Report: 1 in 9 U.S. women drink alcohol while pregnant

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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.

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

Not only did about 10% of pregnant women report using alcohol, but about one-third of them reported binge-drinking.

Binge-drinking was defined as having four or more drinks on one occasion.

Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Salena Zanotti said no level of alcohol is safe during pregnancy, and these numbers were up from the last time this survey was performed, which was surprising.

“We, as a society, need to talk about this more,” she said. “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.” 

Zanotti said alcohol use during pregnancy has been linked to miscarriage, stillbirth, and developmental problems with babies.

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.

Zanotti said 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 said. “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.” 

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. She said the bottom line is no level of alcohol or marijuana is safe for a developing baby.