Nov 12 6:00 PM

How prevalent is alcohol consumption among pregnant women?

Glasses of wine are poured in Lujan de Cuyo, Argentina on July 14, 2011.
Alejandro Pagni/ AFP/ Getty Images

In her new book, “Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol,” journalist Ann Dowsett Johnston explores the startling rise in alcohol abuse and dependence among women. As women have worked to close the gender gap in their careers and family life, they have also rapidly caught up to men in alcohol consumption. A recovering alcoholic herself, Dowsett Johnston delves into the psychological and sociological factors that have contributed to this trend and the dramatic implications it has on society as a whole.

One of the topics that Dowsett Johnston tackles is the issue of women who drink while pregnant. The following facts may surprise you:

In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control found that 1 in 13 pregnant women in America said they consumed alcohol. The study defined alcohol consumption as "having at least one drink of any alcoholic beverage in the past 30 days," and defined binge drinking for women "as four or more drinks on an occasion in the past 30 days." The study also found that employed pregnant women were 2.5 times more likely to binge drink than unemployed pregnant women. Learn more from the CDC.

A 2010 study from the United Kingdom found that of women who consumed alcohol before they conceived, 40 percent also drank while pregnant. 52 percent of those women were over the age of 35, 51 percent were from “managerial and professional occupations,” and 46 percent were from a “white ethnic background.” Learn more from the UK's National Childbirth Trust

A 2012 Australian study reported that 47 percent of women drank alcohol while pregnant, but only before their pregnancy was confirmed. 19.5 percent of women surveyed continued to drink after their pregnancy was confirmed. Of pregnant women under 25 who had consumed alcohol before they were pregnant, 90 percent abstained from drinking after learning they were pregnant. Among pregnant women over the age of 36 who were prior drinkers, only 50 percent abstained. Learn more from Australia's Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education.

According to a 2010 British study, children of mothers who drank small amounts of alcohol while pregnant were not at an increased risk for behavioral or intellectual developmental problems. The study also stated that children of light drinkers were actually 30 percent less likely to have behavioral problems than children whose mothers abstained from alcohol during pregnancy. Learn more from The Guardian.

According to Philip May, an American scientist and research professor at the Gillings Schools of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, two to seven children per thousand have fetal alcohol syndrome in North America and Europe. 2 to 5 percent have fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Learn more from the National Center for Biotechnology Information in Bethesda, Md.

Dowsett Johnston and Dr. Nabil Kotbi, assistant professor of psychiatry at Weill-Cornell Medical College, join Antonio Mora to discuss the rise in alcohol abuse among women on the Tues., Nov. 12 edition of Consider This. Tune in to Al Jazeera America at 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT.


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