Recently, there has been some uproar concerning the recommendation made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which suggested that sexually active women who are not on birth control should refrain from any alcohol consumption. It goes beyond the usual rule of moderation. Although the suggestion has led to vast criticism from women’s rights activists and other researchers; this recommendation stems from an ongoing epidemic of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) that are appearing in many children. A report, released by the CDC, reports that 3.3 million women, ranging from the ages of 15 and 44, are drinking alcohol and are at risk of exposing their developing children to the disorders.
A child suffering from FASDs can encounter many physical, intellectual and behavioral deficiencies, including but not limited to abnormal facial features, shorter than average height, difficulty concentration, and learning disabilities. The CDC reports that 75% or three out of every four women, who are trying to become pregnant, do not stop drinking when they stop taking birth control. CDC Principal Deputy Director, Anne Schuchat argues that half of the pregnancies in the United States are unplanned and most women who have planned pregnancies, do not realize that they are pregnant, until one month into the pregnancy. The report done by the CDC is backed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends that no “amount of alcohol should be considered safe to drink during any trimester of pregnancy”.
The report has been met with strong support from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and many health care providers. It has also been met with criticism from many. Many argue, that this recommendation sets an unrealistic standard for women. It suggests that women should not have any amount of alcohol, at all. The managing director of the American Beverage Institute, Sarah Longwell, describes the suggestions as “puritanical”. It has been suggested to be geared only towards heterosexual women who must adhere to the strict standard. The CDC, has been criticized for creating a distance between itself and half of the population. Many may begin to doubt the advice of the CDC based on its unrealistic suggestion. It steers away from moderation to absolute teetotalism. Many argue that the CDC, should avoid making unrealistic recommendations and help encourage protective measures, such as birth control. Birth control, has only recently been made more accessible, with the passing of ObamaCare and there is much more knowledge needed, about the accessibility and correct forms of birth control for different women. Whether one does engage in teetotalism for the sake of children, it is an important effort to learn about proper birth control and reasonable preventive measures.
Written by: Nuzhat Choudhury