CDC Says Women Not Using Birth Control Should Avoid Alcohol

by Dr Jonathan D'Souza

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a new recommendation for women of childbearing years: You shouldn’t be drinking if you’re not using birth control.

In a new report, the CDC warns that women’s who aren’t using contraception and consume alcohol are taking unacceptable health risks. Statistics indicate that about 3.3 million women in the US could be endangering the health of a potential child by having unprotected sex and continuing to drink alcohol.

Women who drink while being pregnant can give birth to children with mental and physical disabilities, sometimes severe ones. The CDC’s guidelines attempt to prevent that.

But these guidelines have created two controversies. First, whether pregnant women should drink alcohol at all? Second, whether all women, even those who aren’t pregnant or wish to have a child, should take precautions in case they become pregnant?

Doctors emphasize that fetal alcohol syndrome can be prevented. This is why the first consensus from the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states that the best way to avoid fetal alcohol syndrome is to abstain from drinking the moment a woman becomes pregnant (even if she doesn't know it yet) until after she gives birth.

However, Fetal alcohol syndrome has a genetic component. This means that not all children of women who drink develop it, and some children are born with the condition even when their mothers don’t drink at all. Also, a 2010 study done in the UK found no evidence that occasional drinking during pregnancy led to differences in children’s behavior or cognition at age five. So this translates into a belief that taking that occasional drink during pregnancy is an acceptable risk.

Approximately half of all pregnancies in the US are unplanned, of which 60 percent of unplanned pregnancies are carried to term, rather than aborted. This is one of the reasons that compelled the CDC to make such a recommendation.

However, the issue does strike a nerve since it appears to treat all women of childbearing age as potential mothers, regardless of whether they have any intention of having a child or carrying a pregnancy to term.

Here is the infographic released by the CDC.


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