CDC says women shouldn’t drink unless using birth control

We’ve been taught that mixing pills and alcohol is risky business, but now the Center for Disease Control is suggesting otherwise – at least when it comes to birth control. 

In a press release put out on Tuesday, Feb. 4, the CDC recommended that sexually active women should not drink unless they are using any form of birth control to avoid the risk of exposing a developing baby to fetal alcohol syndrome.

It reads, “An estimated 3.3 million women between the ages of 15 and 44 years are at risk of exposing their developing baby to alcohol because they are drinking, sexually active and not using birth control to prevent pregnancy.”

The National Institute of Health says, “Drinking alcohol can cause a group of conditions called fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs).” These conditions include difficulty with learning, communicating, controlling emotions and daily life skills.

However, the report is stirring controversy as it questions whether pregnant women should consume any amount of alcohol and if women who are not planning pregnancy should drink at all.

“It’s hard not to point fingers at any substance that could potentially cause a negative outcome.”

“My opinion is that if you know you are expecting, or trying to conceive, do not drink. There are no ‘pros’; however, there are life changing ‘cons,’” said Logan Israel, a mother of one who became pregnant at age 17, of Boca Raton, Fl.

Studies show that there is no exact number of children born with FAS, but “the estimated prevalence of FASDs … ranges from two percent to five percent,” according to the CDC. This is possibly a result of the 3 in 4 women who want to get pregnant and say they do not stop drinking after stopping birth control.

However, while heavy drinking has been shown to lead to babies with FAS, light drinking seemingly does not have an affect.

Israel, now 21, continued, “An embryo is most fragile in the early stages of development, and with all of the new disorders – autism, unexplained behavioral and chromosomal disorders – it’s hard not to point fingers at any substance that could potentially cause a negative outcome.”

For those fertile women not planning to get pregnant, the CDC says that they should be acting as though they might be. CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat, M.D. said, “About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and even if planned, most women won’t know they are pregnant for the first month or so, when they might still be drinking.”

Schuchat stressed, “The risk is real. Why take the chance?”

This notion comes off as unrealistic to some as it doesn’t coincide with the lifestyle of most of today’s women.

NIH reports that 60 percent of U.S. women of all ages have at least one drink per year, 13 percent of whom have more than seven drinks a week. Specifically, “In 2013, 59.4 percent of full-time college students ages 18–22 drank alcohol in the past month compared with 50.6 percent of other persons of the same age.”

Now, the CDC is trying to better explain itself. Lela McKnight-Eily, an epidemiologist and clinical psychologist on the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Prevention Team at the CDC said, “It’s more a matter of women knowing and being informed that if they are drinking alcohol, sexually active and not using birth control.”