3% of Pregnant Women Still Binge Drink

Cheryl H. Tan, M.P.H. Epidemiologist and lead author of the study National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities CDCMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Cheryl H. Tan, M.P.H.

Epidemiologist and lead author of the study
National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: One in 10 pregnant women in the United States aged 18 to 44 years reports drinking alcohol in the past 30 days and 3.1 percent of pregnant women report binge drinking – defined as 4 or more alcoholic beverages on one occasion. That means about a third of pregnant women who consume alcohol engage in binge drinking.

This is concerning because women who are pregnant or who might be pregnant should avoid drinking alcohol. Alcohol use during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of birth defects and developmental disabilities in babies, as well as other pregnancy problems, such as miscarriage, stillbirth, and prematurity.

Alcohol consumption during pregnancy causes Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs), which are a group of conditions that can occur in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These conditions include physical problems, behavioral problems, and leaning disabilities. FASDs are completely preventable: if a woman does not drink alcohol during pregnancy, her child has zero risk of an FASD.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: These findings are an important reminder to healthcare providers to talk to their patients – both pregnant women and women of childbearing age – informing women that there is no known safe level of alcohol consumption when they are pregnant or might be pregnant.The U.S Preventive Services Task Force recommends that healthcare providers implement alcohol screening and brief intervention in their primary care practices. Alcohol screening and brief intervention is an effective strategy for reducing alcohol consumption.

Our message to women who are pregnant who might be pregnant is: There is no known safe amount, no safe time, and no safe type of alcohol to drink during pregnancy. It’s just not worth the risk.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Future research can be done in three possible areas:

1)      Understand what groups of women are at high risk of drinking during pregnancy, and the reasons why they are at higher risk

2)      How to better educate women about the risks of drinking during pregnancy

3)      How to better assess a women’s drinking during pregnancy and to more effectively intervene if they are drinking.


Alcohol Use and Binge Drinking Among Women of Childbearing Age — United States,

Cheryl H. Tan, MPH1; Clark H. Denny, PhD1; Nancy E. Cheal, PhD1; Joseph E. Sniezek, MD1; Dafna Kanny, PhD2

MMWR Weekly

September 25, 2015 / 64(37);1042-1046

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Last Updated on September 25, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD