In one-third of those cases, frequent binge drinking is also often involved.
What’s more, the rate of drinking during pregnancy is actually on the rise, with a slight uptick in the rate over the past decade, according to investigators from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The new report was based on 2015-2017 data for more than 6,800 U.S. women aged 18 to 44.
“Current drinking and binge drinking in the past 30 days were reported by 11.5% and 3.9% of pregnant women, respectively,” reported a team led by Clark Denny, of the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.
The study found that, far from decreasing, the rate of drinking and binge drinking in pregnancy actually rose slightly from levels reported in 2011-2013.
The frequency of binge drinking was especially troubling, Denny’s team noted.
For women who said they had binged on alcohol, the average amount consumed per session was six or more drinks, and the average number of binge drinking sessions per month was 4.5, the study found.
“High blood alcohol concentrations among pregnant women might be particularly harmful to the brain of a developing fetus,” Denny and colleagues warned.
In fact, drinking while pregnant has long been linked to a wide range of negative health outcomes for infants. These include fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, birth defects tied to the central nervous system, behavioral issues and impaired intellectual development, the researchers explained. Drinking in pregnancy can also raise the odds for stillbirth and miscarriage.
In the study, single pregnant women had nearly triple the odds of binge drinking compared to married women. That might be due, in part, to the added stresses single women face while pregnant, the researchers suggested.
Dr. Sophia Jan directs pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y. Reading over the new findings, she said too many women still have misconceptions around alcohol use in pregnancy.