Remember when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that women who were sexually active and not on birth control should stop drinking alcohol altogether because they might become pregnant and the alcohol might affect their babies? Yeah, so do we.
The February 2016 report is hard to forget: The CDC, which effectively recommended that women between the ages of 15 and 44 put down the wine bottles until they surpass childbearing age, resulted in some serious backlash. Women everywhere were insulted that the CDC would insinuate that they were not only incapable of weighing the risks of drinking alcohol and having sex on their own, but also that they didn't know their own bodies well enough to stop drinking in the event that they did become pregnant.
It turns out women were completely justified in taking offense — according to new research published in Obstetrics and Gynecology, the CDC majorly underestimated women with its 2016 pregnancy and alcohol guidelines.
Room for pragmatism in reducing #alcohol use in #pregnancy? Infographic of our #research. Practical addition to #publichealth #policy? pic.twitter.com/OTZ5bdpctr— Katherine Hartmann (@Hartmann_KE) March 9, 2017
In the March 2017 study, Vanderbilt University researchers surveyed more than 5,000 women on their drinking habits during pregnancy. They found that 90 percent of the women surveyed quit drinking as soon as they found out they were pregnant — and of those 10 percent who didn't go cold turkey, most drank less than once a week. Another interesting finding: Most women who opted to occasionally drink during pregnancy were more likely to be white, college-educated, older, and wealthier, which directly contradicts existing stereotypes that low-income women or women of color are the most likely to drink while pregnant.
Change in #alcohol use in #pregnancy. Number of women over time, light grey=pregnancy test, dark=stopping/reducing: https://t.co/ZVrNSz27Xz pic.twitter.com/t5TNCacjlo— Katherine Hartmann (@Hartmann_KE) March 11, 2017
The study, which admittedly did not gather data on participants' use of birth control and relied on self-reported data, has its limitations. But senior study author Katherine Hartmann, MD, PhD, deputy director of the Institute for Medicine and Public Health at Vanderbilt, believes her team's findings prove that women already know how to "self-regulate their alcohol use." And while promoting alcohol abstinence throughout the entirety of a woman's childbearing years is unrealistic, encouraging "early pregnancy awareness" could be more effective in fighting fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, she said in a press release.
"Although our study does not test these approaches, our findings imply that pregnancy prevention and access to inexpensive pregnancy tests with encouragement to test early around the time of a missed period would be a stronger strategy to prevent alcohol exposure in pregnancy," Dr. Hartmann said.
So there you have it: Research has proven that women are, indeed, smarter than the CDC's pregnancy and alcohol guidelines gave them credit for. But you already knew that, didn't you?