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Heavy Drinking During Pregnancy Remains Unchanged

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Posted On: April 06, 2002          Updated On: April 06, 2002
© Terence T. Gorski, 2001

Heavy Drinking During Pregnancy 
Remains Unchanged
By Terence T. Gorski
April 06, 2002

If you love your unborn baby, 
stop drinking and using drugs during pregnancy.   

If you can't stop, 
you're probably addicted.  

Get the help you need.  

Treatment can work for you, 
your unborn baby, and your family.  

<Read More About It>

A survey of pregnant women by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 2.7 percent admitted binge drinking — five or more drinks at a time — in 1999, down only slightly from 2.9 percent in 1995.  This is frustrating health officials who have made large investments in trying to lower the number of pregnant women using alcohol during pregnancy.  The overall percentage of pregnant women who drink fell from 16.3 percent to 12.8 percent over the same period while the percentage of women who are heavy drinkers remained virtually unchanged.

The CDC is most concerned about frequent drinking and binge drinking among pregnant women because these are the patterns consistently related to adverse outcomes for the child.   They are also concerned about the heavy drinking among women in general.  Fifty-three percent of women who were not pregnant reported some drinking in 1999, and about 12 percent reported binge drinking.  This is significant because many women become pregnant unintentionally.  As a result can continue to drink heavily before they discover that they are pregnant.  As a result they are drinking heavily during the first two or three months of their pregnancy which is the period during which the unborn child is in danger of the greatest damage from heavy drinking.

This failure to impact the overall rate of heavy and binge drinking in women in general and in pregnant women could be related to the current approach to preventing alcohol and drug problems in women.  The disease of alcoholism has been down-played.  Pregnant women addicted to prescription or illegal drugs have been subjected to harsh punishment in the name of the drug war.  There has been inadequate education among health care providers in how to recognize heavy alcohol and drug use in pregnant women and then educate and intervene in medically appropriate and clinically effective ways.

The nation needs to realign its alcohol and drug control policies around the scientific fact that alcohol and drug addictions are diseases that require treatment and not criminal or irresponsible behaviors that need to be punished.  Until this happens, the rate of heavy and addictive alcohol and drug use among pregnant is likely to remain high.  Addictive use during pregnanacy will also remain hidden because spouses, extended family members, and health care professionals will be unlikely to report pregnant women to authorities if they know that they will punished and not helped.  No one wants to be responsible for incarcerating a pregnant women and separating the child from the mother at birth.  

The government needs to do two things to lower the rate of birth defects related to alcohol and drug use during pregnancy:  

(1)  The government needs to recognize that medical intervention is more effective than law enforcement and incarceration to lower the rate of heavy addictive drinking and drug use among pregnant women;  

(2)   The government needs to fund a large scale campaign to education health care providers and family members about addiction as a biopsychosocial disease that is is highly treatable and can cause birth defects if left untreated in pregnant women.

The slogan needs to be:  If you love your unborn baby, stop drinking and using drugs during pregnancy.   If you can't stop, you're probably addicted.  Get the help you need.  Treatment can work for you, your unborn baby, and your family.  

Addiction treatment can save you baby from birth defects and you and your family from a life of progressive and painful problems.

<Read More About It>

CDC Surveys Drinking While Pregnant

By ERIN McCLAM, Associated Press Writer 
APRIL 04, 2002

ATLANTA (AP) — The percentage of pregnant American women who reported binge drinking hardly budged during the late 1990s, frustrating health officials who warn of the risk of birth defects.

A survey of pregnant women by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 2.7 percent admitted binge drinking — five or more drinks at a time — in 1999, down only slightly from 2.9 percent in 1995.

However, drinking overall among pregnant women fell from 16.3 percent to 12.8 percent over the same period. 

``We're most concerned about frequent drinking and binge drinking because these are the patterns consistently related to adverse outcomes for the child,'' said Dr. Louise Floyd, a CDC birth defects expert.

Drinking while pregnant can cause birth defects and brain disorders in children. The CDC urged doctors to warn women of childbearing age about the danger.

Drinking by pregnant women still lags far behind drinking by nonpregnant women. Fifty-three percent of women who were not pregnant reported some drinking in 1999, and about 12 percent reported binge drinking.

On the Net:  CDC alcohol-pregnancy site: 
http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fas

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