Women, Pregnancy and Alcohol

  • A warning for women of childbearing age.  The CDC states that women ages 15-44 should avoid alcohol unless they are using birth control. Alcohol can harm a developing baby before a woman knows she is pregnant.  The CDC estimates more than 3 million women are at risk of exposing a developing fetus to alcohol. This warning is to reduce the cases of fetal alcohol syndrome.    (CBS Morning News, USA Today, February 3, 2016)

  • "No Alcohol during Pregnancy -- Ever -- Plead U.S. Pediatricians."  In an effort to once and for all put a rest to any debate about drinking during pregnancy, the American Academy of Pediatrics has put out a clear message: Don't do it. Ever. At all. Not even a tiny bit.

    "No amount of alcohol should be considered safe to drink during any trimester of pregnancy," the group wrote.  Prenatal exposure to alcohol is the leading preventable cause of birth defects, as well as cognitive problems later in life.  The risk of having a baby with growth retardation goes up even when a woman has just one alcoholic drink a day.

    Drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases the risk the baby could have myriad problems, including trouble with hearing and vision, and with the heart, bones and kidneys. Children of mothers who drank while pregnant were also more likely to have neurodevelopment issues such as troubles with abstract reasoning, information processing, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

    Women who drank in their first trimester were 12 times more likely to have a child with these issues, compared to women who didn't drink at all. First- and second-trimester drinking increased the risk 61 times, and women who drank during all trimesters increased the risk by a factor of 65.

    "There is no safe amount, no safe time, and no safe type of alcohol to drink during pregnancy. It's just not worth the risk," said Dr. Cheryl Tan, an epidemiologist at the CDC. an conducted a study showing that during 2011-2013, one in 10 pregnant women reported consuming alcohol in the past 30 days and one in 33 reported binge drinking.

    "The research suggests that the smartest choice for women who are pregnant is to just abstain from alcohol completely," said Dr. Janet F. Williams, one of the leading authors of the report from the American Academy of Pediatrics.  (Source: "No alcohol during pregnancy - ever - plead U.S. pediatricians," by Elizabeth Cohen, CNN Senior Medical Correspondent, CNN, October 21, 2015; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

  • Women who drink just 3 alcoholic beverages a week face a higher chance for developing breast cancer compared with nondrinkers.  A compelling study followed more than 100,000 nurses almost 30 years showing an association between alcohol and breast cancer.  The researchers took into account other cancer risk factors, including age of menstruation and menopause, family history, weight and smoking—and still found evidence of a link with alcohol.  It made no difference whether the women drank liquor, beer or wine.  Increased risks were also seen in binge drinkers—women who consumed at least 3 drinks daily in a typical month.  The study does not prove that drinking causes the disease—but validates a link.    (Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Wendy Chen, a researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and associate professor at Harvard Medical School, November 2011)
  • Alcohol is Unsafe.  From the standpoint of cancer risk…there is no level of alcohol consumption that can be considered safe for women.  Even low-to-moderate amounts of alcohol increase the risk of cancer, which outweighs any potential cardiovascular benefit for having a single drink every day.     (Dr. Michael S. Lauer and Paul Sorlie, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and Epidemiologist Naomi E. Allen, University of Oxford, Journal of the National Cancer Institute)  
No level of alcohol use during pregnancy has been proven safe.  Each year, more than 50,000 babies are born with some degree of alcohol-related damage.  Alcohol passes swiftly through the placenta to the fetus.  In the unborn baby’s immature body, alcohol is broken down much more slowly than in an adult’s body.  As a result, the alcohol level of the fetus’s blood can be even higher and can remain elevated longer than in the mother’s blood.  This sometimes causes the baby to suffer lifelong damage.  
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is entirely preventable.  Babies with classic FAS are abnormally small at birth and usually do not catch up as they get older.  FAS can affect their physical features, internal organs, and result in a lifetime of behavior problems.
  • Alcohol abuse and alcoholism cut across gender, race and ethnicity. Nearly 14 million people in the U.S. are dependent on alcohol. 

  • Alcohol increases the risk of many cancers, including breast cancer. 
What You Can Do
  • Women who are attempting to become pregnant, are pregnant, or nursing, should abstain from alcoholic beverages and nicotine.  
  • Read “Just one drink a day can raise women’s cancer risk.” by Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times, February 2009.

  • Warn Men and Boys:  There are 4 ways a man's health affects his offspring.  A fathers lifestyle may have far more effect on a child's health than doctors originally believed. Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center found, that there are 4 ways a man's health affects his offspring:
1)  An alcoholic father raises the risk of fetal alcohol syndrome and developmental difficulties,
     as three quarters of babies with fetal alcohol problems had fathers who were alcoholics.
2)  Kids of older fathers (40 and older) have higher rates of schizophrenia, autism, and birth defects.
3)  Your dad's diet impacts how you react to food.
4)  A dad who smokes may cause DNA damage.
Fertility specialists say men are not immune to reproductive aging.  A man's lifestyle, age, and genetics can play just as significant a role in the health of a baby as the mother's health.  ("Dads lifestyle linked to kids' health issues," and "Influence of paternal preconception exposures on their offspring: through epigenetics to phenotype," American Journal of Stem Cells, April 2016)
Local Organizations
Additional Resources

Abstemious Outpatient Clinic Inc.  

Alcoholics Anonymous
AA Meetings

American Behavioral Health Systems Drug Addiction Treatment  

Breakthrough Recovery Group
Valley Redwood Plaza
11711 E. Sprague, Ste D4
Spokane Valley, WA   99206
(509) 927-6838
Outpatient drug and alcohol treatment services and programs.  We incorporate the latest research in neurology and pharmacology, offering an innovative, evidence-based, patient centered substance and mental health treatment experience. 

Colonial Clinic Drug Addiction Treatment  

Community Detox Services of Spokane
312 W. 8th Ave.
(509) 477-4650
Daybreak of Spokane Alcohol Rehab Center

First Call for Help

Excelsior Youth Centers Inc.
328-7041 ext.101  

Gateway Counseling Services Alcohol Treatment Center

Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council

Healing Lodge of The Seven Nations Alcohol Rehab Center

Isabella House Drug Abuse Treatment
624-1244 ext. 23

Lakeside Recovery Centers Drug Rehab Center  
(for-profit business)
(509) 328-5234

Native Project

New Directions Outpatient Clinic Drug Abuse Treatment

New Horizon Counseling Services Drug Treatment Program
838-6092 ext. 32

New Vision @ Holy Family Hospital
(509) 252-6488

Parent-Child Assistance Program (PCAP)

PCAP works to -
  • Assist mothers in obtaining alcohol and drug treatment and staying in recovery.
  • Link mothers and their families to community resources that will help them build and maintain healthy and independent family lives. 
  • Help mothers prevent the births of future alcohol and drug-affected children.
Spokane Addiction Recovery Centers Alcohol Treatment Center

Spokane Heights Detox
(for-profit business)
524 E. Francis
(509) 919-4150
Spokane Heights Detox seeks to bridge the gap between the need for physiological and psychological aspects of detoxification from addictive substances and alcohol. Their method encompasses an individualized approach to the beginning stages of the recovery process. Medical and therapeutic professionals work together with each individual in order to motivate lasting recovery opportunities and maximize treatment effectiveness.

Spokane Regional Health District Drug Treatment Program

Stepps YFA Connections Drug Addiction Treatment

Sun Ray Court Drug Addiction Treatment, Adult Male Branch

Veterans Affairs Medical Center Substance Abuse Treatment Program
(509) 434-7000

Spokane Drug Rehab Treatment Centers

National Resources: 

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.  
A national clearing house for alcohol and drug information.  The world’s largest source for free information, programs, and projects on substance abuse and addiction treatments. 

National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism provides help to stop drinking.