New birth control advice from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has women throughout the United States up in arms. The most recent advice from the CDC, advocates that women who drink alcohol should also take birth control as a precautionary measure.
According to NPR, about half of all pregnancies are unplanned and the CDC advised that women “are at risk of exposing their developing baby to alcohol because they are drinking, sexually active and not using birth control to prevent pregnancy.”
The CDC also reported that three out of four women “who want to get pregnant as soon as possible do not stop drinking alcohol when they stop using birth control.”
Their consensus is that women who are trying to get pregnant should either stop drinking, or not try to get pregnant and use birth control when having sex. Although the advice may be well intended, as a measure to reduce Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), the warning is not sitting well with some women, who feel it’s condescending.
A columnist for the Washington Post aptly summed up her thoughts about the CDC birth control warning in sarcasm.
“That’s the last time I drink merlot alone in my apartment. I don’t want herpes.”
The CDC warning went on to further advise women that drinking can also lead to increased vulnerability for sexually transmitted disease or violence.
“More than 3 million U.S. women are at risk of exposing their developing baby to alcohol because they are drinking, having sex, and not using birth control to prevent pregnancy.”
CDC’s Dr. Anne Schuchat responded to the media backlash about the birth control warning.
“We recommend that everybody, all adults, be screened for alcohol and counseled about reducing their alcohol consumption if they have problems with it. We urge women and their partners and their friends to be supportive of that idea… ‘I’m not going to drink for a while, because I’m thinking about getting pregnant.’”
At its core, the CDC drinking and birth control debate does have some scientific validity. At least one-in-10 women admit to drinking alcohol while pregnant, and science has proven that there are no known safe levels of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
But, not everyone disagrees with the Center For Disease Control. Many people, including women, see the positives in what the CDC was advocating. The Daily Caller stuck up for the CDC with the headline “Women Freak Out When CDC Recommends Not Poisoning Their Babies.”
The CDC birth control warning comes after stories about fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) were spreading like wildfire last month on the internet.
Another media outlet, Salon, suggested that instead of warning women about the dangers of drinking, a more effective route would be to promote contraception for everyone.
Writer Amanda Marcotte says what so many other people are thinking.
“But what’s especially frustrating is that this controversy is only happening because that same kind of puritanism prevents us from having a larger conversation about a much bigger problem underlying these narrow recommendations: the fact that so many women aren’t using birth control in the first place.”
Although most women of reproductive age have reported using birth control at some point during their lives, roughly 38 percent of those women are not actively on birth control now. The startling issue is that the percentage of women trying to get pregnant is lower than that figure, so many women are not protecting themselves in the ways they could if birth control was more readily available for all women.
This isn’t the first time the CDC has issued a warning that resulted in a media backlash. Maybe next time they’ll consult with a PR agency before they release another warning that’s all too easy to misinterpret.
[Photo credit: Getty Images/Eric Audras & ai]