Binge Drinking When Pregnant: Why Don’t We Stop?

Binge Drinking When Pregnant: Why Don’t We Stop?

One third of women in the U.S. who said they drank alcohol during their pregnancy also admitted to binge drinking, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported today.

Binge drinking, defined for the purpose of the research as having four or more drinks on one occasion, is usually associated with college students and young adults. But this survey shows they’re not the only ones. Pregnant women aged 35-44 years drink more than those of all other age groups, and pregnant women with college degrees drink twice as much as those with a high school diploma or less.

The study also shows that binge drinking among non-married pregnant women is 4.6 times higher than among married pregnant women.

Another study published a couple of months ago was showing that underage drinking can lead to brain abnormalities — so it should come as a surprise to no one that drinking while expecting can have serious consequences on the future baby.

Coleen Boyle, director of the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, commented on the findings in a statement.

“We know that alcohol use during pregnancy can cause birth defects and developmental disabilities in babies, as well as an increased risk of other pregnancy problems, such as miscarriage, stillbirth and prematurity.”

So, why do we keep doing it?

Unlike smoking, which is demonized and frowned upon in society, drinking alcohol is still a social norm, one that most people partake in. Drinking alcohol is not only seen as acceptable, it’s also seen as necessary for many people to have fun, socialize, open up and party. No wonder then that we are removed from its real dangers, and if we don’t understand why it’s bad for us, surely we won’t understand why it would be bad for a foetus.

What’s more, confusing studies on the real impacts of drinking when pregnant send mixed messages to the public, such as encouraging pregnant women to drink one glass of wine a day.

This study was based on a survey of more than 200,000 women taken from 2011 to 2013, more than 8,000 of whom were pregnant at the time. The researchers who conducted it admitted the numbers could be lower than the reality, as many women don’t know they are pregnant for the first four weeks — or some may refuse to admit to a dangerous behavior.

Cheryl Tan, lead author on the study, said the study should encourage pregnant women to reduce their drinking habits and for doctors to do more to help screen women who drink during their pregnancy.

“Again, there’s no safe amount and no safe type of alcohol to drink during pregnancy,” Tan said. “It’s just not worth it.”

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)