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One in 13 women drink while pregnant: study

Reading What to Expect When You're Expecting, taking prenatal yoga classes, buying elastic waistband skinny jeans and … ordering a mojito?

According to a survey on alcohol and binge drinking analyzed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 13 women reported drinking during pregnancy (defined as having at least one drink of any alcoholic beverage in the past 30 days). More alarming, nearly one in five of those women reported binge drinking – consuming four or more drinks on a single occasion. (It is cold comfort that this number from the 2006-2010 survey is down from a similar study conducted a decade ago.)

The newly published study, which appears in the CDC's Morbity and Mortality Weekly Report, underscores that alcohol consumption during pregnancy can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, and is among the leading preventable causes of birth defects and developmental disabilities.

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Data was collected over the five-year period by the Behavioural Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a self-reported, randomized telephone survey that focuses on general health-related behaviours.

The report – which distinguished binge-drinking frequency (number of episodes) from intensity (number of drinks) – was estimated with 95-per-cent reliability, although the authors concede that the data represent a nationwide estimate. They also acknowledge that self-reported studies are not entirely accurate and can underestimate actual alcohol consumption.

But alcohol use during pregnancy stands out more than the findings among non-pregnant women. In particular, expectant mothers aged 35-44 reported the highest alcohol consumption (14.3 per cent), dramatically outdrinking those aged 18-24 (4.5 per cent).

The media site Gawker quickly seized on this point, noting that educated, employed, white women appeared to have the highest incidence of prebaby boozing).

The article's author, Taylor Berman, subsequently responded to a reader comment that there are myriad stock photos of pregnant women drinking. She wasn't kidding. See for yourself.

Of course, the big question is now what. As in, what will convince pregnant women who do not see the dangers in drinking to swap martinis for mocktails?

Editor's note: An incorrect figure appeared in an previous version of the story.

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