by S. Fenella Das Gupta, Ph.D., Neuroscience
According to a new CDC study (of more than 340,000 self reports between the ages of 18 and 44), about 1 in 13 women drink while pregnant. Among pregnant women, the highest prevalence of reported alcohol use were among those who were aged 35–44 years (14.3%), white (8.3%), college graduates (10.0%), or employed (9.6%).
Of those pregnant women, 1 in 4 reported binge drinking of approximately three times per month and six drinks per occasion. Binging episodes were highest among the 18 to 24-year-old demographic. And those employed, were nearly 2.5 times more likely to engage in binge drinking than those who weren't. Unmarried pregnant women were three times more likely to binge drink than their married counterparts.
Overall while the numbers are still low- with 1 in 13 (7.6%) deciding to drink, the lead author of the study Claire M. Marchetta, told CBS News that the results concern her.
Most of us know that the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Surgeon General's advisory strongly discourages women from consuming alcohol while pregnant. However ,it seems some women are still having a hard time taking these health guidelines seriously. On some chat boards where this topic is being discussed, the level of denial is apparent. Peppered amongst the responses are those quoting their favorite “my mother drank” stories with of course, no detriment at all to the developing fetus.
With the majority having concerns however, it leads us to an interesting concept put forward by the author of the CDC report. Namely, “Pregnant and non pregnant women of childbearing age who misuse alcohol might benefit from public health interventions … such as increased alcohol excise taxes and limiting alcohol outlet density,” stated Marchetta.
In plainer words, a sin tax. Sin tax refers to taxes on commodities seen as harmful to health. By raising the cost for certain products, it aims to force change upon people's behavior.
Would this be a good public intervention or is it more likely to deter the moderate user and have no effect on those who are hell bent on getting drunk that night?
And what about the idea of doing a pregnancy test in a bar?
Yes, that’s right. “This chick walked into a bar ……” and is handed a pregnancy test. Well, not quite that, but an upscale bar in southern Minnesota has installed a pregnancy test dispenser in its woman’s bathroom.
So along with that Bourbon on the rocks, you can buy (all major credit card accepted) a $3 pregnancy test. This concept is the idea of Healthy Brains for Children, a nonprofit that seeks to prevent fetal alcohol syndrome. The plan is to have worldwide locations where women can test before drinking alcohol rather than waiting until a month or two into the pregnancy. A ‘Think before you drink’ intervention designed with the overall aim to lower the incidence of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
But overall, are these interventions of applying a potentially enforced sin tax or pregnancy test an infringement on women’s reproductive rights or protection for the unborn child? And if that’s not the answer, what is?
Fenella Das Gupta is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist ( #47275) working in Northern California, specializing in fertility counseling. She works with individuals and couples as they make their way through the fertility maze. The other part of her work includes making fertility issues a newsworthy item, as she writes for the Petaluma Patch-a subsidiary of the Huffington Post. To read more about fertility issues in the news go to http://petaluma.patch.com/users/fenella-das-gupta-phd-neuroscience-mft/blog_posts