CDC to Young Women: Don't Drink if Not on Birth Control

'Paternalistic' warning causes backlash
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 4, 2016 5:48 AM CST
Updated Feb 4, 2016 6:35 AM CST
Cheers to abstaining?   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – A warning too far? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has taken a lot of heat this week for a press release warning that more than 3 million American women of childbearing age who drink alcohol and don't use birth control are at risk of exposing a potential baby to fetal alcohol syndrome. "About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and even if planned, most women won't know they are pregnant for the first month or so, when they might still be drinking," warned CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat. "The risk is real. Why take the chance?" The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics say there is no safe amount of alcohol that can be consumed during pregnancy.

The warning caused a backlash, with the Atlantic labeling it "Protect Your Womb From the Demon Drink" and USA Today noting that "alcohol plays a role in many conceptions, after all, even among married couples." Lela McKnight-Eily, however, a member of the CDC's Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Prevention Team, tells the Huffington Post that the intention wasn't to order millions of women to use birth control or stop drinking completely. "We definitely didn't make any recommendations for women who are pre-pregnant," she says, explaining that the warning was aimed at raising awareness of the risks among women who are actively trying to conceive. (Recent research suggests that for pregnant women, a coffee a day won't affect child IQ scores or behavior.)

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