Alcohol and Pregnancy: Women Of Child-Bearing Age Should Not Drink Unless Using Contraception, CDC Says

First Posted: Feb 02, 2016 02:55 PM EST

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges women of child-bearing age avoid alcohol, unless they're using contraception; this would help reduce the number of babies born with fetal alcohol syndrome--a leading known preventable cause of developmental and physical birth defects in the United States.

Estimates suggest that each year in the United States alone, 1 in 750 infants is born with a pattern of physical, development and functional problems referred to as fetabl alcohol syndrome (FAS), while another 40,000 are born with fetal alcohol effects (FAE). 

The report specifically showed that over 3 million between the ages of 15 and 44 are at risk of exposing a fetus to alcohol because of unprotected sexual activity and drinking, according to the latest CDC Vital Signs report released today. The report also found that 3 in 4 women who want to get pregnant as soon as possible do not stop drinking alcohol when they stop using birth control.

"Alcohol can permanently harm a developing baby before a woman knows she is pregnant," said Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, via the report. "About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and even if planned, most women won't know they are pregnant for the first month or so, when they might still be drinking. The risk is real. Why take the chance?"

There is no known safe level of alcohol at any stage of pregnancy, according to the CDC. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends women abstain completely from alcohol while pregnant.

Babies that are exposed to alcohol while still in the womb may be small than other babies and have slightly different faces-including small or narrow eyes and a thin or flat upper, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Babies exposed to larger amounts of alcohol before birth may go through withdrawal symptoms during the first few weeks and may also have problems with heart rate, breathing and indigestion.

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