A new government survey released Thursday revealed that 1 in 13 pregnant women drink alcohol and sometimes even go on binges.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 8 percent of pregnant women and 52 percent of non-pregnant women of child-bearing age, between the ages of 18 and 44, drink alcohol, based on results from the recent survey.
The CDC also found that 15 percent of non-pregnant women and 1.4 percent of pregnant women of child bearing age went on alcohol binges in the past 30 days.
However, while binge drinking, defined for women as drinking four or more drinks on an occasion, was significantly more prevalent among non-pregnant women, they survey revealed that both pregnant and non-pregnant women who admit to binge drinking report doing so on an average of about three times a month and having about six drinks per session.
CDC researchers found that women who binge drink before becoming pregnant are more likely than women who don't binge drink to continue drinking after becoming pregnant, suggesting that alcohol screening tests and brief interventions for non-pregnant women may help reduce the use of alcohol by pregnant women.
Researchers say that at least one in 100 U.S. births is affected by a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, such as fetal alcohol syndrome, alcohol-related birth defects, and alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder, which can lead to neurological deficits and lifelong disabilities.
Previous animal studies have suggested that binge drinking is more dangerous to fetal brain development than a more continuous drinking pattern, even if the total amount of alcohol is consumed less, according to the CDC report.
The report, based on data gathered on 345,076 women, including 13,880 pregnant women, between ages 18 and 44 from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, found that while 7.6 percent of pregnant women in general reported drinking in the past 30 days, there were dramatic differences in alcohol consumption among pregnant women of different ages.
Pregnant women between the ages of 35 and 44 reported the highest prevalence of alcohol use, 14.3 percent, compared to 4.5 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 24.
Researchers found that employed pregnant women were two and half times more likely to drink compared to unemployed pregnant women, and unmarried pregnant women were three times more likely to drink compared to those who were married.
Among non-pregnant women, white women were far more likely to report any alcohol use and binge drinking in the past 30 days compared to women of other races. Non-pregnant married women and those with higher education were less likely to drink.
The good news is that binge drinking among pregnant women was lower in the recent survey, conducted between 2006 and 2010, compared to the previous survey between 2001 and 2005 when an estimated 1.8 percent of pregnant women reported binge drinking compared to now where 1.4 percent report doing so.
However, researchers noted binge drinking among non-pregnant women went up from 12.6 percent to 15 percent.