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Notice to Readers: Alcohol and Other Drug-Related Birth Defects Awareness Week --- May 14--20, 2000

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) has designated May 14--20, 2000, as Alcohol and Other Drug-Related Birth Defects Awareness Week. This year's focus is early identification of childbearing-aged women (aged 15--44 years) with drinking problems. Two thirds of all pregnant women do not know they are pregnant until after the 4th week of pregnancy, and one third do not know until after the 6th week (1). Birth defects resulting from harmful alcohol exposure occur during the first 8--12 weeks of pregnancy, a period in which many problem drinkers do not know they are pregnant and continue to drink at levels that can be toxic to the developing fetus. Recent statistics from the National Household Survey of Drug Abuse (2) find that one in 50 pregnant women binge drink (consume five or more drinks in 1 day), resulting in approximately 80,000 alcohol-exposed pregnancies per year, and that one in eight childbearing-aged women (3) binge drink, potentially exposing an additional number of fetuses during the early first trimester before pregnancy recognition.

In September 1997, CDC implemented Project CHOICES, a pilot study aimed at preventing alcohol-exposed pregnancies among nonpregnant women who are at risk for an alcohol-exposed pregnancy. Sexually active women who binge drink or consume more than seven drinks a week are targeted for a behavioral intervention that teaches the consequences of drinking while pregnant and counsels women on how to reduce their risk drinking and postpone pregnancy until risk drinking is resolved. The Project CHOICES pilot study will conclude this fall and will be followed by a clinical trial to test the approach.

Additional information about fetal alcohol syndrome, Project CHOICES, and other programs is available through CDC's Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Branch, Division of Birth Defects, Child Development, and Disability and Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, on the World-Wide Web at Additional information about NCADD and materials on Alcohol and Other Drug-Related Birth Defects Awareness Week are available at the NCADD web site,*


  1. Floyd RL, Decoufle P, Hungerford DW. Alcohol use prior to pregnancy recognition. Am J Prev Med 1999;17:101--7.
  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, US Department of Health and Human Services. National Household Survey on Drug Abuse---main findings, 1998. Rockville, Maryland: US Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2000. (National Household Survey on Drug Abuse series: H-11).
  3. US Department of Health and Human Services. 1997 Household Survey on Drug Abuse. Available at Accessed April 20, 2000.

* References to sites of non-CDC organizations on the World-Wide Web are provided as a service to MMWR readers and do not constitute or imply endorsement of these organizations or their programs by CDC or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. CDC is not responsible for the content of pages found at these sites.

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