Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are completely preventable.
Tatiana Balachova, Ph.D.
Department of Pediatrics
The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
Phone: (405) 271-8858
Each month, the CDC Vital Signs Program releases a call-to-action about an important public health topic based on the latest available data. The February 2016 Vital Signs issue is focused on alcohol and pregnancy:
What we know:
· About 3.3 million women between the ages of 15 to 44 years are at risk of exposing their developing baby to alcohol. This is because they are drinking alcohol and not using birth control to prevent pregnancy. Furthermore, 3 in 4 women who want to get pregnant as soon as possible report drinking alcohol.
· Exposing a developing baby to alcohol can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs), which are physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities that last a lifetime. Some of the behavioral and intellectual disabilities may not be recognized until the child goes to school.
· Alcohol use during pregnancy is also associated with miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity, and SIDS.
· About half of all pregnancies are unplanned and, even if planned, most women do not know they are pregnant until they are 4–6 weeks into the pregnancy. This means a woman might be drinking and exposing her developing baby to alcohol without knowing it.
What can be done:
Women and their healthcare providers can work together to prevent alcohol use during pregnancy.
· Talk with their health care provider about their plans for pregnancy, their alcohol use, and ways to prevent pregnancy if they are not planning to get pregnant.
· Stop drinking if they are trying to get pregnant or could get pregnant.
· Ask their partner, family, and friends to support their choice not to drink during pregnancy or while trying to get pregnant.
· Ask their healthcare provider or another trusted individual about resources for help if they cannot stop drinking on their own.
Doctors, nurses, or other healthcare professionals can:
· Provide alcohol screening and brief counseling to all women.
· Recommend birth control to women who are having sex, not planning to get pregnant, and drinking alcohol.
· Advise women who are trying to get pregnant to stop drinking alcohol.
· Refer for additional services for women who cannot stop drinking on their own.
· Follow up yearly or more often, if needed.