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Notice to Readers: Alcohol and Other Drug-Related Birth Defects Awareness Week, May 11--18, 2003

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence has designated May 11--18, 2003, as Alcohol and Other Drug-Related Birth Defects Awareness Week. This year's theme, "Preserving Families," encourages persons to recognize the detrimental effects alcohol can have on persons and families and urges women of childbearing age to assess their drinking habits. Early identification of women at risk for an alcohol-exposed pregnancy is critical to preventing fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and other prenatal alcohol-related conditions.

Prenatal alcohol exposure can result in facial abnormalities, growth deficits, and central nervous system problems, the most severe of which is FAS. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the recognition of FAS (1). Despite efforts to prevent alcohol-exposed pregnancies, binge and frequent drinking among both pregnant and nonpregnant women continues (2).

FAS is preventable when a woman does not drink alcohol when she is pregnant or could become pregnant. One prevention strategy to reduce alcohol use that has demonstrated promising results involves brief, behavioral counseling interventions (3). Another related but more in-depth counseling approach incorporates motivational interviewing techniques. In this issue of MMWR, findings from Project CHOICES, a CDC-funded motivational intervention designed to reduce alcohol-exposed pregnancies among high-risk women of childbearing age, are presented. Providing effective alternatives for reducing the risk of an alcohol-exposed pregnancy to women who might not respond to alcohol reduction strategies is an important step toward FAS prevention.

Additional information about Alcohol and Other Drug-Related Birth Defects Awareness Week is available at Additional information about FAS and other prenatal alcohol-related conditions is available from CDC at, from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism at, and through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at


  1. Jones KL, Smith DW, Ulleland CN, Streissguth AP. Pattern of malformation in offspring of chronic alcoholic mothers. Lancet 1973;1:1267--71.
  2. CDC. Alcohol consumption among childbearing-age women---United States, 1991--1999. MMWR 2002;51:273--6.
  3. Fleming MF, Mundt MP, French MT, Manwell LB, Stauffacher EA, Barry KL. Brief physician advice for problem drinkers: Long-term efficacy and benefit-cost analysis. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 2002;26:36--43.

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