According to a recent study, pregnant women's use of heavy alcohol increased between 2011 and 2020.
According to an article in JAMA Network, over a ten-year period, pregnant women’s heavy alcohol consumption climbed by more than 11% annually, and binge drinking increased by almost 9% annually.
The public health research team examined data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) for pregnant women aged 18 to 44 from January 2011 through the end of 2020. The BRFSS is an adult national cross-sectional sample that tracks alcohol use in the United States. The data is drawn from the 30-day memories of the subjects.
Four or more drinks in one sitting were considered to be “binge drinking.” Eight drinks or more per week was considered “heavy alcohol intake.”
According to the study’s primary author, Jeffrey T. Howard, PhD, an associate professor of public health at the University of Texas at San Antonio, his team was examining the causes of maternal deaths when they discovered the unexpectedly high figures involving alcohol.
“What really surprised me the most was what showed up in maternal mortality. We really weren’t expecting to see this large increase in drug and alcohol poisoning among this group,” Howard said.
“It was disheartening to see that both binge drinking and heavy alcohol consumption did increase in pregnant women In the last decade. I’m not particularly surprised by it, unfortunately,” said Dr. Vanessa Parisi, OB-GYN, the president of the New Jersey OBGYN Society and a team member of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Prevention Program. “The work has to start with the education of the medical provider,” she told Healthline. “How to ask open-ended questions without stigma. To tell our patients there is no safe amount, type, or timing of alcohol in pregnancy.” “Providers need to screen and intervene when we have at-risk or high risk patients and refer them to treatment,” she added.
A reson for this behaviour is something Dr. G. Thomas Ruiz, an OB-GYN at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in California, would like to have seen. The study doesn’t really expand on why we’re seeing more of this type of behavior. It leaves it up to us to come up with our own conclusions, said Ruiz,
“What we know is that in terms of mental health, high anxiety, depression, and social stressors, people will often turn to alcohol or drugs to self-medicate to make them feel better,” Ruiz said. “That’s part of one of the things within the human condition. Stressors like the inability to buy a house, high student debt, making ends meet, trying to decide if you’re going to have a family, all of these social stressors can create an anxiety state.“
Although it may not be in the scientific literature, Howard believes that there is a counter-narrative in the widely read self-help literature. Some people out there are trivialising things and saying, “It’s not a big problem.” They don’t explicitly suggest that binge drinking is acceptable, but rather that alcohol use in general is something that’s acceptable and not a major concern.
“I’m not attempting to blame everything to that because I don’t know how prominent it is. Howard continued, “I’m just suggesting there is a sort of counter-narrative out there.