Don’t drink if you’re not on birth control, women told

Women shouldn’t drink unless they are on birth control because they run the risk of getting pregnant and damaging their unborn child, a prominent health group has claimed.

The risk of drinking when pregnant is well-documented, but should this fear be spread to women who aren't pregnant? (Photo: Wiki)

The risk of drinking when pregnant is well-documented, but should this fear be spread to women who aren’t pregnant? (Photo: Wiki)

The Centres for Disease Control, a US government health body, has said that 3.3 million sexually active women who aren’t on birth control should completely refrain from drinking.

It also said that any women, even those who are not on birth control, should strictly monitor their drinking or they run the risk of “unintended pregnancies”.

The CDC defines excessive drinking as having just eight drinks a week – little more than one medium glass of wine per day.

Four drinks over the course of two to three hours is also considered “binge drinking” for women in the US.

One of the report’s four key recommendations to women includes: “Stop drinking alcohol if you are trying to get pregnant or could get pregnant.”

“Alcohol can permanently harm a developing baby before a woman knows she is pregnant,” CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat said in a statement accompanying the report.

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

Critics have taken issue with the CDC’s Alcohol and Pregnancy report, saying that it shames those women who choose to drink occasionally.

They have also condemned the suggestion that women who drink occasionally without being on birth control are acting carelessly.

Jia Tolentino, writing for women’s rights blog Jezebel, said: “To extend this idea [that women who are pregnant shouldn’t drink] to women who might become pregnant just because they are alive and unmedicated – or to phrase the recommendation with a basic disregard for the facts of how women live – suggests the same old idea that all women are either future, current, past or broken incubators, and that is their body’s primary use.”

9 Responses to “Don’t drink if you’re not on birth control, women told”

  1. James Grey says:

    This has got to be one of the most offensive pieces of advice to be published in recent memory, and this set against a background of extraordinarily patronising, demeaning and scaremongering reportage being splashed across the media almost daily. Quite apart from repugnant implications as to how alcohol must affect all women and that their entire reason for existence is procreation, it is the laughable idea of a genuine risk.
    By extension of this logic, we should be given the helpful advice not to step outside as this will reduce the chances of dying in a plethora of ways. Although no doubt staying indoors carries many equally lethal potential scenarios. Perhaps Tennis players at Wimbledon et al should be warned against serving overarm in case they miss-hit the ball into any one of the staff or spectators and by freak chance kill them with the impact? Similar scenarios for Golf, Cricket, Hockey, etc?
    Rather than treating this as an amusing example of how far the culture of the nanny-state is advancing across the western world we need to, as an industry, firmly rebuff this wealth of pseudo-science, often based on assumptions made on the basis of questionable research, which become ‘facts’ merely by repetition not genuine evidence.

  2. Chris Alexander says:

    First, this is unbelievably sexist. How are all of these *drunken whores* getting impregnated? Immaculate conception? I have a better idea for this piece of rather shoddy journalism (currently trying to find the report w/the CDC and cannot) – why don’t we bring back chastity belts?

  3. Keithp says:

    This stuff is based on studies funded by government. It is nothing but a program to control social behavior. I suspect most issues of fetal alcohol syndrome have more than just alcoholic beverage consumption as a factor. I would bet it would also have factors of diet, drugs, smoking, genetics, and activity involved. I have lost faith in about any government funded study that has any basis in political or government control of people behavior. You can count on the scientists and institutions involved having a desire to continue and increase grants they may be getting. Sort of a science grant welfare system. If there is not any specific science knowledge involved rather than studies and opinions it should not be disseminated. They use words like teratogen making it sound like a specific substance that causes the problems, when it is a general term not a specific substance.

  4. Bruce Jack says:

    Howsit, Neal, we get the subtlety of the article. It’s nicely poised and doesn’t purport endorsement, but I suspect many readers are starting to yearn for a bit more of an “editorial” opinion on attacks like this. Here’s hoping. Keep up the good work, dude.

  5. Joanne says:

    Yesterday – all women should “think of cancer” before they take a sip of wine.
    Today – this rubbish.
    Any more handy tips for half the human population? The stupid half, if you believe this codswallop.

  6. Sarah Phillips says:

    Coach Carr from Mean Girls appears to have joined the CDC:


    You will get pregnant.

    And you will die.”

  7. jay w says:

    I think it’s worth considering the simple logic behind this advice before jumping to such defensive positions.

    Sexually active women of childbearing years who aren’t on birth control or taking other precautions to avoid conceiving may become pregnant at any time. This is a pretty straightforward fact. Most people in this situation, from my experience, are aware of and accept this possibility, and as such, I interpret the advice provided above to be that they should also be aware that their alcohol consumption may be affecting the development of any fetus that may be unknowingly growing inside of them. I really don’t see how this recommended approach should be any more offensive than the recommendation that if you are intentionally trying to get pregnant then you should refrain from alcohol consumption. It doesn’t matter if you’re intentionally get pregnant or unintentionally get pregnant, the fact is that an embryo or fetus should be treated with care, and avoiding alcohol is one obvious way to do this. If a mother waits until they realize they are pregnant before stopping their drinking, then the growing baby will have already been subjected to a number of weeks worth of avoidable and permanent harm.

    I believe that if there is an easy and effective way to reduce the risk of harming babies, then we should do our best to support the idea. It seems that people are too quick to dismiss this one simply because it has an impact on their lifestyle choices.

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