Last week’s CDC report on alcohol consumption and pregnancy risks failed to drive a point home. However, it managed to infuriate sufficient people to jumpstart a more serious debate. The CDC report on pregnancy and alcohol consumption deserved the backlash.
Firstly, because its paternalistic tone failed to convey a convincing message about the risks an embryo or fetus is exposed to if the expecting mother decides to have a glass or two. Secondly, the well-deserved backlash is supported by the fact that is fairly vague while managing to shame any woman who would not follow those recommendation avant-la-lettre.
In short, the CDC report states that 3.3 million who are not on birth control and are sexually active also drink. The definitions with which the researchers operated are the following. A woman at risk to have an alcohol-exposed pregnancy was a woman who is not sterile, does not use birth control and whose partner is also not sterile. She would have vaginal sex with her male partner and drank any amount of alcohol.
A woman who wanted to be pregnant was a woman who decided, together with her male partner to stop using birth control. Operating with these definitions in a given cohort, the CDC report reached the conclusion that 7.3 percent of the women who are 15 to 44 years old, not pregnant, not sterile and not using birth control, are risking an alcohol-exposed pregnancy.
The CDC report on pregnancy and alcohol consumption deserved the backlash. After the statistics and the vague, certainly not scientific language, the CDC report failed to really explain what happens to the embryo or fetus during the first trimester of the pregnancy or the subsequent ones if the mother indulges in one or two glasses of alcohol.
A cohort of other studies can explain these risks in detail. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders and fetal alcohol syndrome are also two very different scenarios that can result from alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
However, according to the CDC report, there is no information on what amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy. The vagueness of this statement shadows the findings of a multitude of other studies. These state more clearly how alcohol interacts with the developing baby if consumed during pregnancy.
Nonetheless, neither the CDC, nor any other agency may freely impose the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. It may not be advisable, yet some women feel the taste for one sip of an alcoholic beverage during pregnancy. Should they feel ashamed and repent? How does one sip of alcohol or one glass or two glasses affect the developing baby? What if alcohol consumption happens once in a blue moon during pregnancy and is limited to one drink?
The CDC report would have been more welcomed if it answered such questions instead of throwing a veil over the truly important issues to be discussed. The CDC report on pregnancy and alcohol consumption deserved the backlash.
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