They'll Have a Merlot: Older, Educated Women More Likely to Drink During Pregnancy

A CDC report sheds light on alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

Frequency of binge drinking among pregnant women was 1.4 percent, the CDC found. (Photo: Tom Grill/Getty Images)

Jul 20, 2012
Jeannine Stein, a California native, wrote about health for the Los Angeles Times. In her pursuit of a healthy lifestyle she has taken countless fitness classes, hiked in Nepal and got in a boxing ring.

Although drinking alcohol during pregnancy is considered a no-no by many health experts, some women still imbibe. Women more likely to drink while pregnant are older, more educated, white and employed, a report finds.

Self-reports among 345,076 women age 18 to 44 who were part of a national behavioral risk factor survey were analyzed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 4 percent of them were pregnant.

Among pregnant women, 7.6 percent drank alcohol, and among nonpregnant women that number was 51.5%. Binge drinking prevalence was 15 percent among nonpregnant women and 1.4 percent among pregnant women.

MORE: For Women, Booze Helps Bones

For expectant mothers, the highest use of alcohol was among women aged 35 to 44.  In that group, 14.3 percent drank, compared to 4.5 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds. 

“Any drinking is going to put your child at risk,” study co-author Clark Denny of the CDC told Reuters. “You should not drink if you are pregnant, are considering getting pregnant or even if you could possibly get pregnant.”

Some studies have shown that drinking during pregnancy puts children at risk for fetal alcohol syndrome, which can cause developmental, behavioral and physical problems. Several health agencies, including the CDC, say no safe amount of drinking during pregnancy has been determined.

However, a June study in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that drinking low to moderate amounts of alcohol early in pregnancy wasn’t associated with developmental or mental deficits in their children at age five.

But even in that study the authors acknowledged that more research is needed on the long-term effects of drinking during pregnancy on children, and that the best advice is to avoid alcohol while pregnant.

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