CDC To Sexually Active Women: Don't Drink Unless You're On Birth Control

CDC Alcohol Pregnancy Recommendations

The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Tuesday that it recommends women of childbearing age avoid alcohol entirely unless they are using contraception.

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Though the advice may seem unrealistic, the reasoning behind it is perfectly sensible: the CDC hopes their recommendation reduces instances of fetal alcohol syndrome, a condition characterized by learning disabilities, bone and joint deformities, heart defects, hyperactivity, and facial abnormalities. The CDC estimates that fetal alcohol syndrome affects as many as two to five per 100 school children in the United States to some degree.

According to the report, about 3.3 million women between the ages of 15 and 44 are at risk of exposing their baby to alcohol because they are drinking, sexually active and not using birth control. The report also found that three in four women who want to get pregnant do not stop drinking alcohol when they stop using birth control.

"Alcohol can permanently harm a developing baby before a woman knows she is pregnant," said Anna Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "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," she added. "Why take the chance?"

The CDC says there is no safe level of alcohol at any stage of pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists agrees; they also recommend that women abstain from alcohol while pregnant. However, other studies suggest that low to moderate drinking during pregnancy is perfectly acceptable.

Let's be real: the report probably won't discourage Millennial women from imbibing on rosé during The Bachelor Mondays. For women who want to have a baby, however, the recommendations are certainly food for thought. "Hopefully, this is the sort of report that will make people stop and think," said Wanda Filer, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, in an interview with USA Today. "Some women will take this advice and some will not.

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