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January Is National Birth Defects Prevention Month

As a teratogen, alcohol is a leading cause of preventable birth defects. The range of effects resulting from alcohol exposure in utero are known collectively as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). Diagnostic terms under the FASD umbrella include:

  • Fetal alcohol syndrome
  • Partial fetal alcohol syndrome
  • Neurobehavioral disorder associated with prenatal alcohol exposure
  • Alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder
  • Alcohol-related birth defects

Alcohol use continues to be prevalent during pregnancy. Recent data from the CDC reveal that an estimated one in nine pregnant women reported alcohol use in the past month; additionally, about one-third of pregnant women who reported consuming alcohol reported binge drinking in the past month. Evidence suggests that the high blood alcohol concentrations associated with binge drinking may be especially harmful, making this statistic particularly concerning.

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Ob-gyns can play a critical role in reducing the rates of alcohol use during pregnancy by educating patients on the developmental risks of alcohol exposure in utero. ACOG recommends that all ob-gyns implement universal screening and brief intervention for risky alcohol use, including any alcohol use during pregnancy. The AUDIT (U.S.) is a validated tool to quickly screen for alcohol use, and motivational interviewing is an effective way to support behavior change with a brief intervention. Learn more and access free online resources on our website.

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