July 20, 2012
Pregnant Women Continue To Drink Alcohol Despite The Risks
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
It has long been known that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can hinder fetal brain development, and now a government health survey has found that one in 13 women (7.6 percent) drink when they are carrying and some even go on binges, further risking the development of their unborn child.
The survey found that older, more sophisticated US women are much more likely to tip up that glass of wine while pregnant than their younger, less educated counterparts, a surprising find for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which gleaned data from a national telephone survey of nearly 14,000 women ages 18 to 44 years old.
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy is the leading preventable cause of birth defects and developmental disabilities in children, according to the CDC. It states there is no safe amount of alcohol or safe time to drink while pregnant.
Reporting their findings in the latest issue of its journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the CDC found that one in five of the pregnant women in the survey reported binge drinking -- having four or more drinks in a two hour span.
The data was gleaned from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data pool taken between 2006 and 2010 on the self-reported drinking habits of more than 345,000 women. The CDC found that of those, about 14,000 were pregnant at the time of the survey.
In the survey, researchers asked the women whether they drank alcohol the previous month and if so, how much. They found that about 14 percent of pregnant women ages 35 to 44 reported having at least one drink in the previous 30 days. On the other end of the spectrum, only 4.5 percent of women between 18 and 24 reported drinking during pregnancy.
The data also showed that 8 percent of white women and 10 percent of those who graduated college drank during pregnancy.
Perhaps some good news was the fact that binge drinking among pregnant women had gone down since another similar study conducted in the early 2000s. But the fact that the study found that fewer young women drank during pregnancy, was confounded by the fact that this same group of women had the highest rate of binge drinking compared to those 35 to 44. And pregnant women who were employed were nearly 2.5 times more likely to engage in binge drinking compared with pregnant women who weren´t employed. Unmarried pregnant women were three times more likely to binge drink than their married counterparts.
The shocking results come after an earlier report this year that showed drinking regularly during pregnancy is known to increase the odds of having children with fetal alcohol syndrome. The CDC states that the risk to a woman´s baby is highest if they consume alcohol in the seventh to twelfth week of pregnancy.
The CDC finding also follows another similar study by researchers at the University of California, San Diego, who followed nearly 1,000 women during their pregnancies over three decades.
That study found that drinking during the second half of their first trimester was linked with growth deficiencies in weight and height along with facial deformities that are telltale signs of FAS disorders.
Results like these “indicate that binge drinking during pregnancy continues to be a concern,” wrote the researchers, led by the CDC's Claire M. Marchetta.
The study authors acknowledge there are limitations in their research, such as relying on self-reporting of drinking habits, which usually are subject to biased opinions. They also acknowledge that they could be under-estimating the results as well. The survey was also only given to people with landline phones, which may have skewed results.
Still, drinking alcohol while pregnant can cause not only FAS, but lead to life-long disabilities and can even cause death, said the CDC.
“Any drinking is going to put your child at risk,” Clark Denny, a CDC epidemiologist and another author of the study, told David Bessley of Reuters. “You should not drink if you are pregnant, are considering getting pregnant or even if you could possibly get pregnant.”
However, five Danish studies published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in June of this year, found that low to moderate levels of drinking during pregnancy may not cause neurological or psychological damage to children by the time they turned 5.
Dr. Jacquelyn Bertrand, a child psychologist and senior scientist at the CDC´s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities - who co-authored three of the studies - said the research does not change the CDC´s recommendation.
“We have a long history that alcohol causes birth defects,” Bertrand said in June, adding that low levels of drinking have been tied to risk for miscarriage, premature birth or stillbirth. “Drinking during pregnancy is just not worth the risk.”
The CDC is working on programs to increase awareness of the dangers of alcohol use during pregnancy, said Denny.