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Binge Drinking and Unintended Pregnancies

May 26, 2003

ATLANTA (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended. A new study shows binge drinking is associated with the risk of a woman getting pregnant when it's not desired. The study also shows binge drinkers are more likely to put their baby at risk by drinking during pregnancy.

Binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more alcoholic beverages on one occasion. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a study to determine the relationship between binge drinking in the three months before pregnancy and to characterize binge drinking women who are of childbearing age.

The study included more than 72,900 women who gave birth from 1996 to 1999. The women were asked if their pregnancy was unintended or intended. An unintended pregnancy is defined as one that was mistimed so it was sooner than desired, or unwanted meaning it was not wanted at all. Researchers also asked the women about their age, race and drinking behavior.

Researchers say 45 percent of the women reported an unintended pregnancy. Compared with women who had an intended pregnancy, the women with an unintended pregnancy were more likely to be black, young and binge drink during the three months before they conceived. However, after adjusting for other factors, researchers say binge drinking before getting pregnant was associated with an unintended pregnancy in white women, but not black women. The study found women who were binge drinkers before pregnancy were more likely to be white, unmarried, smoke and be exposed to violence. They were also more likely to drink alcohol and smoke during pregnancy.

While researchers say the risk factors for unintended pregnancy are complex, binge drinking may be an area to focus on. They say many of these same maternal risk factors such as binge drinking put children at an increased risk for subsequent physical and emotional harm. Therefore, the authors of the study recommend addressing binge drinking and other risk factors to reduce the rates of unintended pregnancies and help improve the overall health and well-being of mothers and their children.

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SOURCE: Pediatrics, 2003;111:1136-1141