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For Release:Dec. 27, 2013 - Pamela Williams, Office of Communications - 405/271-5601

More Counseling Needed to Reduce Pre-pregnancy Alcohol Use

As the celebratory New Year’s Eve approaches when opportunities for alcohol use increase, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) reminds women who are pregnant or could become pregnant that alcohol use during pregnancy is a leading cause of preventable birth defects and developmental disorders in the United States.

A survey conducted by the OSDH called the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) shows that 51.1 percent of women with live births in 2009-2010 reported drinking alcohol in the three months before pregnancy. PRAMS is a population-based surveillance system about maternal behaviors and experiences before, during, and after pregnancy.

The U.S. Surgeon General reports there is no safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy and because almost half of the live births in Oklahoma are the result of unintended pregnancies, many infants are at risk of preventable birth defects and developmental disorders.

“Part of the problem is that some women may not realize they are pregnant until well into the first or second trimester, then they may seek medical care late. This can cause a gap in prenatal care and unintentional exposure of the fetus to the damaging effects of alcohol,” said Dr. Edd Rhoades, interim director of the OSDH Maternal and Child Health Service. “Women who are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant should abstain from drinking.”

Other findings in the PRAMS survey data show that in Oklahoma:

  • 51.6 percent of women reporting alcohol use had an unintended pregnancy.
  • 46.8 percent of women who reported alcohol use, binge drank at least once in the three months prior to pregnancy. Binge drinking is having 4 or more drinks in two hours.
  • 55.6 percent of women who binge drank also smoked during the three months before pregnancy. Smoking is known to have adverse health effects on a developing baby.
  • 30.8 percent of women who binge drank prior to pregnancy reported they did not receive prenatal care counseling on the bad effects of alcohol on a developing baby.
  • Mothers who binge drank before pregnancy were 2.2 times more likely to have symptoms of postpartum depression after the baby was born.

OSDH and its more than 20 partners in the “Preparing for Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility” initiative to reduce infant mortality in Oklahoma, advise that women planning to get pregnant and those at risk for becoming pregnant should abstain from alcohol use. For more information about having a healthy baby, visit: http://iio.health.ok.gov.

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