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Notice to Readers Alcohol and Other Drug-Related Birth Defects Awareness Week -- May 9-15, 1999

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) has designated May 9-15, 1999, as Alcohol and Other Drug-Related Birth Defects Awareness Week. This year's focus on early identification of women with drinking problems parallels CDC's research activities targeting nonpregnant women of childbearing age who are at risk for having an alcohol-exposed pregnancy (Project CHOICES {Changing High-risk Alcohol Use and Increasing Contraception Effectiveness Study}).

Fertile women who drink alcohol frequently and have unprotected sex are at risk for having an alcohol-exposed pregnancy. As many as one in eight women of childbearing age engage in frequent drinking (five or more drinks on at least one occasion in the previous month or an average of seven or more drinks per week) (1). Half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned (2), and many women do not know they are pregnant until well into their first trimester (3). Any woman with an unplanned pregnancy could expose her unborn child to alcohol before she knows she is pregnant. Alcohol use during pregnancy can have harmful effects on the fetus, including spontaneous abortion, birth defects, neurodevelopmental disorders, and fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) (the most common known nongenetic cause of mental retardation) (4).

The incidence of alcohol-exposed pregnancies can be reduced if women at risk reduce their alcohol consumption or postpone pregnancy until their problem drinking is resolved. Screening instruments (5,6) can be used to identify women who are problem drinkers, and brief interventions, consisting of counseling and advice, can be given to those for whom problems are identified.

Additional information about Alcohol and Other Drug-Related Birth Defects Awareness Week is available from the NCADD World-Wide Web site, *, or telephone (212) 206-6770. Information about FAS and other alcohol-related birth defects and developmental disabilities is available from CDC, , or telephone (770) 488-7268.


  1. CDC. Alcohol consumption among pregnant and childbearing-aged women -- United States, 1991-1995. MMWR 1997;46:346-50.

  2. Henshaw SK. Unintended pregnancy in the United States. Fam Plann Perspect 1998;30:24-9.

  3. Floyd RL, Decoufle P, Hungerford DW. Alcohol use prior to pregnancy recognition. Am J Prev Med 1999(in press).

  4. Institute of Medicine. Fetal alcohol syndrome: diagnosis, epidemiology, prevention, and treatment. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1996.

  5. Bohn MJ, Babor TF, Kranzler HR. The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT): validation of a screening instrument for use in medical settings. J Stud Alcohol 1995;56:423-32.

  6. Russell M. New assessment tools for risk drinking during pregnancy: T-ACE, TWEAK, and others. Alcohol Health Res World 1994;18:55-61.

References to sites of nonfederal organizations on the World-Wide Web are provided solely 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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