What now? Who now? The CDC’s New Guideline for Alcohol in Pregnancy

On February 1, the CDC updated their guidelines on alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Previously, the CDC stated that women should abstain from drinking while pregnant because too much alcohol can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) in babies. (FASD is bad news because it causes physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities that last a baby’s whole life.) Since there is no known “safe” amount of alcohol the CDC has always said, just stay away from it altogether when you’re in the family way.

Last week the CDC decided to expand on this, now advising women of childbearing age to avoid drinking alcohol unless they are using contraception. Say what? Their logic is that more than 3 million women in the U.S. are having sex, not using birth control, and drinking alcohol so they are therefore putting a possible embryo at-risk of FASD.

Personally, I’m amazed at the way they have simplified the preventative measures of FASD. They seem to be ignoring the fact that many women who continue to drink heavily during pregnancy are probably fighting an addiction – not an ignorance of alcohol dangers.

Meanwhile, the rest of us who like to drink recreationally are now supposed to be terrified that they might cause FASD in a potential, future, imaginary baby even if they aren’t trying to get pregnant? It’s like advising everyone with a driver’s license to avoid alcohol to reduce the chances of drunk driving.

Furthermore, I also breathlessly await their recommendation that men of reproductive age abstain from alcohol because of the possible impact it could have on sperm quality. 

Bottom line: The CDC made a huge misstep by releasing this condescending guideline that insinuates that our uterus’ are Schrodinger’s boxes and missed the opportunity to effectively communicate the dangers of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

Perhaps they were drunk when they wrote it.




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11 Comments

  • As someone who’s lived in Europe and now Asia, it amazes me the level of fear the American and British health authorities put around drinking while pregnant.

    Of course no scientist is going to set up a controlled trial that knowingly puts babies at risk to test the actual levels where FASD becomes a problem. However, they CAN use anecdotal and historical evidence to make an educated guideline. This what most country’s do and results in a guideline of 1-3 units per week being perfectly safe.

    Is it because the US is such a litigious society that unless the doctor tells you flat out to avoid allcohol, they risk being sued?

    • I find that authorities in North America tend to use extreme and simplified guidelines in the hopes that it will cover a broader audience. Unfortunately, I think it just makes them come off as patronising and inept and does very little to inform the intelligent portions of the population.

  • Im not seeing an issue with this recommendation, putting aside cases of addiction. I take issue with those choosing to have sex irresponsibly, with or without alcohol. Having a baby is not something to take lightly. They’re simply saying protect from pregnancy if you’re going to drink. You should protect from pregnancy anyway if that’s not your intent. A child deserves to be brought into this world on purpose.

  • So, a woman who’s trying to become pregnant can’t even have a glass of wine during her period? Even if she’s been trying for years, and it helps take the edge off that yet another cycle has failed? That’s COLD, CDC folks…

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