- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that women who are planning to get pregnant or could get pregnant should abstain from alcoholic drinks.
- The agency noted half of all U.S. pregnancies are unplanned and those that are planned typically aren’t known to the woman for four to six weeks. During that time, they might still be drinking.
- Alcohol use can harm the developing fetus, causing a range of developmental issues that can affect the brain, body and organs.
More than 3 million women are at risk of exposing their unborn children to alcohol by drinking, having sex and not using birth control, according to the CDC report. Moreover, three in four women who are trying to get pregnant report drinking alcohol.
The CDC surveyed more than 4,000 fertile women ages 15 to 44 and found women mostly likely to drink while pregnant were 25 to 29, married or living with a partner and already had a child.
Babies were slightly more at risk of alcohol exposure during pregnancy if their mothers smoked, and at twice the risk if their mothers had a college education versus a high school education or less.
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders is wholly preventable by avoiding alcohol while pregnant, the CDC notes.
The report has been interpreted by some as a call for young women to stop drinking. Headlines such as "CDC to Women: Protect Your Womb From the Devil Drink" and "CDC Says Women Shouldn't Drink Unless They're On Birth Control. Is It Drunk?!?" began cropping up after the release of the report. While it does look at all women of childbearing age, its main target is women who are pregnant and still consuming alcohol.
The report rightly noted that half of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and found no difference in alcohol consumption between women who were trying to get pregnant and women who weren't.
While the report did note that sexually active women of reproductive age who drink alcohol and don't use birth control are at risk for alcohol-exposed pregnancies, the thrust of the warning was directed at the group actively trying to conceive.
"We definitely didn't make any recommendations for women who are pre-pregnant," said Lela McKnight-Eily, an epidemiologist and clinical psychologist at the CDC, was quoted in The Huffington Post.
“Every woman who is pregnant or trying to get pregnant -- and her partner -- want a healthy baby," Coleen Boyle, director of CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, said in a statement. "But they may not be aware that drinking any alcohol at any stage of pregnancy can cause a range of disabilities for their child."