3.3 million American women of reproductive age, who are drinking, sexually active and not using a contraceptive method such as the birth control pill, are at risk of harming their developing baby due to alcohol consumption, according to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC).
The CDC has also announced on Tuesday, that 3 in 4 women in the country who want to get pregnant do not stop consuming alcohol, even when they stop using birth control. The institution stressed that there is no safe amount of alcohol for pregnant women. Even binge drinking (4 drinks per 2 hours), can affect the baby’s development.
After analyzing data from the National Survey of Family Growth, the CDC concluded that approximately 7.3 percent U.S. women in the ages of 15-44 could be at risk of exposing their babies to alcohol consumption consequences if they become pregnant.
“Alcohol can permanently harm a developing baby before a woman knows she is pregnant. 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?” CDC Principal Deputy Director, Anne Schuchat, said in a press release.
According to a CDC fact sheet, consuming alcohol during pregnancy can lead the baby to develop Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, such as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which causes mental retardation and several birth defects. Results from a study carried by the CDC would appear to show that 1 in 20 pregnant women drink excessively before realizing they are pregnant.
Babies of women who consume alcohol while pregnant have also higher risks of dying from sudden infant death syndrome, even when women binge drink. Also, there’s an increase in the risk of miscarriage when women drink excessively during the first three months of pregnancy.
Hopefully, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders can be completely prevented. The CDC said that healthcare providers must advise women who stop using birth control, about the consequences of consuming alcohol during pregnancy, since usually most women find out they are pregnant after the first four or six weeks of pregnancy.
Coleen Boyle, Ph.D., director of CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, said that every woman who is pregnant or trying to get pregnant, want a healthy baby. As a response, they need to be aware of the consequences and disabilities than can occur to their babies if they drink alcohol.
“It is critical for healthcare providers to assess a woman’s drinking habits during routine medical visits; advise her not to drink at all if she is pregnant, trying to get pregnant or sexually active and not using birth control; and recommend services if she needs help to stop drinking” said Coleen Boyle, Ph.D., director of CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.
Declarations from the CDC follow the advice published by the American Academy of Pediatrics last year, which says that prenatal alcohol exposure can cause brain, heart, bones and kidney damage to developing babies.
Developing babies are not the only affected by alcohol in the country. Every year, approximately 88,000 people die in the United States as a consequence of excessive alcohol consumption. The CDC, which motto is “saving lives, protecting people,” says that consuming alcohol in excess can affect the American economy since those deaths can be translated as losses in workplace productivity.