More than one in 10 pregnant women admitted drinking alcohol in the previous month, including about one in 33 who acknowledged at least one episode of binge drinking, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Considering that U.S. health officials have set a goal of eliminating all binge drinking by pregnant women by the year 2020 and limiting the prevalence of other drinking to only 2 percent, the findings are not exactly encouraging.
"There is a need for a comprehensive approach to reduce alcohol use and binge drinking among pregnant women," wrote the report authors, who work in the CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities and the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
The researchers arrived at these figures by examining data collected between 2011 and 2013 as part of the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Interviewers called a random sample of households from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. They got responses from more than 200,000 women between 18 and 44 years old, including 8,383 who said they were pregnant.
Drinking was common among women who weren't pregnant — 53.6 percent said they had consumed alcohol at least once during the 30 days before their interview. However, when women knew they were pregnant, they were much less likely to drink — 10.2 percent of them said they had done so in the past 30 days.
Since 1981, the surgeon general has advised pregnant women to abstain from drinking to prevent fetal alcohol syndrome, a condition that combines "severe physical and mental defects." Even foods and medications that contain alcohol should be avoided, the advisory says. (It was updated in 2005.)
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists agrees, warning that "no amount of alcohol consumption can be considered safe during pregnancy."
The study was published Thursday in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.