Key Findings: Alcohol use and binge drinking among pregnant women aged 18–44 years – United States, 2015–2017
In a new Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) article, CDC researchers found that about 1 in 9 pregnant women reported drinking alcohol* in the past 30 days. Among pregnant women, about one third who reported consuming alcohol engaged in binge drinking.†
Alcohol exposure during pregnancy can be harmful to the brain of a developing baby and may result in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). Screening for alcohol use, combined with brief counseling, may decrease alcohol use during pregnancy and reduce the risk of FASDs and other negative pregnancy and birth outcomes.
- About 1 in 9 pregnant women reported drinking alcohol* in the past 30 days.
- About one third of pregnant women who reported consuming alcohol engaged in binge drinking.†
- Pregnant women who reported binge drinking in the past 30 days reported an average of 4.5 binge-drinking episodes during that same time period.
* Drinking alcohol was defined as having at least one drink of any alcoholic beverage in the past 30 days.
† Binge drinking was defined as having consumed four or more drinks on at least one occasion in the past 30 days.
- Alcohol use during pregnancy can cause birth defects and developmental disabilities, collectively known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). Alcohol use during pregnancy is also linked to other outcomes, such as miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm (early) birth, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
- There is no known safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy. All types of alcohol can be harmful, including red or white wine, beer, and liquor.
- Alcohol can cause problems for a developing baby throughout pregnancy, including before a woman recognizes she is pregnant.
- FASDs are preventable if a developing baby is not exposed to alcohol before birth.
About this Study
- The study uses self-reported data collected from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a state-based, landline and cellphone survey of the U.S. population.
- To estimate alcohol use and binge drinking for pregnant women aged 18–44 years, data from the 2015–2017 BRFSS were analyzed for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
- Among binge drinkers, the frequency (number of binge drinking episodes in the past 30 days) and intensity (largest number of drinks consumed during any episode in the past 30 days) of binge drinking was also estimated.
CDC activities: Preventing alcohol exposure during pregnancy and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs)
CDC is working to prevent alcohol exposure during pregnancy with the following activities:
- Estimating how much and how often pregnant women report drinking alcohol;
- Supporting the implementation, adoption, and promotion of evidence-based interventions to reduce alcohol use during pregnancy, including alcohol screening and brief counseling;
- Promoting effective treatments for children, adolescents, and young adults living with FASDs and their families;
- Enhancing healthcare provider education, including free online training courses on preventing FASDs and identifying and caring for people with FASDs;
- Offering FASD-related educational information and materials;
- Disseminating guidelines on alcohol use, including the Dietary Guidelines for Americansexternal icon; and
- Educating and informing the general public and policymakers about effective strategies for reducing excessive alcohol use, such as those recommended by the Community Preventive Services Task Forceexternal icon (e.g., decreasing hours of sale for alcohol).
- CDC’s Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders website
- CDC’s Alcohol and Public Health website
- CDC’s Alcohol Use in Pregnancy website
- CDC’s Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: Training and Resources website – online courses and resources for healthcare providers
- CDC’s Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention Efforts website – how to implement in primary care
- National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS)external icon
Key Findings Reference
Denny CH, Acero CS, Naimi TS, Kim SY. Consumption of alcohol beverages and binge drinking among pregnant women aged 18–44 years – United States, 2015–2017. MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2019; 68(16): 365-368. [Read Article]