The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said its recommendation that sexually active women should not drink alcohol if they are not using birth control is valid, despite criticism from many women.
The New York Times reports the advice was viewed by some women as insulting and impractical.
“We weren’t as clear as we had hoped to be,” acknowledged Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director of the CDC.
The recommendation is aimed at preventing fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. The CDC estimates that 3.3 million women ages 15 to 44 who drink alcohol and do not use birth control risk exposing their babies to the disorders, the article notes.
The CDC report advises women who intend to get pregnant, or who could get pregnant, not to drink alcohol. The report notes about half of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. Most women do not realize they are pregnant until four to six weeks into the pregnancy.
The report was meant to explain the risks of drinking before a woman knows she is pregnant, Dr. Schuchat said. The CDC wants women to know the dangerous effects of alcohol on a developing baby are completely preventable, she added. The CDC did not intend to tell women to “plan their entire lives around a hypothetical baby,” she told the newspaper.
“We’re really all about empowering women to make good choices and to give them the best information we can so they can decide what they want to do themselves,” Dr. Schuchat said. “Alcohol in that period can be particularly risky, so we wanted to make sure people are aware of that. What they do with that information is, of course, up to them.”
According to the CDC, alcohol use during pregnancy, even within the first few weeks and before a woman knows she is pregnant, can cause lasting physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities that can last for a child’s lifetime.