The image of a pregnant woman drinking is often a reminder of the bad old days when people didn't know better — but new study shows it persists.
According to a new study by the CDC of telephone surveys conducted between 2006 and 2010, 7.6 percent of women age 18 to 44 reported drinking alcohol while pregnant. That's 1 in 13, as the Associated Press noted. On the extreme side of things: 1.4 percent reported binge drinking. The study looked at 13,880 women who were pregnant. The oldest group of women — 35 to 44 — reported the highest amount of alcohol consumption.
"Alcohol use during pregnancy is a leading preventable cause of birth defects and developmental disabilities," says the CDC report. "There is no known safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy and binge drinking is a high-risk pattern of alcohol consumption."
But there have been whispers and wonderings for a while as to the danger that a drink while pregnant actually posed. A recent study suggested that drinking during pregnancy may not be so dire. Looking at a study funded by the CDC and conducted in Denmark, NPR wrote in June:
Still, the results suggest that light drinking (one to four drinks a week) and even moderate imbibing (five to eight drinks) may be OK. Even occasional binge drinking (five or more drinks in a single session) didn't appear to be tied to developmental issues.
NPR added that there were some potential holes in the study like the idea that the testing did not "detect subtle changes in the development of the kids" or that problems related to alcohol developed in later life.
That same month Claire Zulkey took to The Awl to discuss her drinking habits while pregnant. She explained that a "few studies" — one she linked to was from 2010 — backed up her "suspicions that a little bit of drinking was fine." So she drank, and came away feeling mixed:
I regret and don’t regret my drinks so far. Some of them were so unbelievably good—that one thing that really hit the spot. But at the same time, I don’t really know what’s right, even if, deep down, I think things will probably be okay. If light to moderate drinking from the second trimester on is fine, I will be fine, but what if I had one drink more than moderate? What if I screwed up and I hurt someone who is not me and the damage is permanent?
If nothing else, Zulkey's column proved that despite the studies, the stigma and shame surrounding the topic still remains.