CDC: No alcohol at all for the pre-pregnant

If you’re a woman who could get pregnant, regardless of whether you’re trying to become pregnant or not, put down the Chardonnay. Back away from the end-of-the-day IPA. In fact, don’t drink a single drop of alcohol. That’s the message delivered by a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which finds that 3.3 million women are at risk of exposing their theoretical developing fetus to alcohol because they are drinking and not using birth control….

“We can’t put a number on that for any individual woman, but what we can say is that fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are 100 percent preventable if there’s no alcohol exposure at all,” she said. “So that’s why we say, ‘Why take the risk drinking any alcohol during, any time in the pregnancy, even before you realize you’re pregnant?’”

Wise feminist philosopher Rebecca Kukla comments:


“We don’t tell pregnant women not to drive cars, even though we are much more certain that there’s a nonzero risk to their fetuses from each car ride than from each drink,” she said. “The ideal of zero risk is both impossible to meet and completely paralyzing to try to meet.”

Kukla argues that such guidelines are also excessively punishing. “The idea that the pleasures and routines that make up women’s days are mere luxuries that are not worth any risk whatsoever is patronizing and sexist,” she said. “And it would also turn their lives into complete hell if really taken to [its] conclusions.”

For more, go here.

9 thoughts on “CDC: No alcohol at all for the pre-pregnant

  1. no, its not a good idea to drink when your pregnant. however, lets just use common sense shall we. a glass of red wine with dinner, one night, and you find yourself pregnant the next week is not cause for alarm. a woman who binge drinks on the other hand needs to be on birth control. its using your brain folks

  2. Similarly, too much radiation is bad for the foetus, and bananas contain potassium-40, which is radioactive. So there must be some level of banana consumption that harms the foetus. We can’t put a number on that for any individual woman, but what we can say is that radiation damage to the foetus is 100 percent preventable if there’s no radiation exposure at all. So that’s why we say, why take the risk eating any bananas during any time in the pregnancy, even before you realise you’re pregnant?

  3. I think the message should be don’t drink when you’re trying to conceiving… I think that was the point and it’s a valid point. The comparison with car driving is not “wise” at all, they are not comparable actions at all. It’s not patronizing or sexism, it’s science. I’m working in a nursery home and I can tell you that bad habits while being pregnant is a real problem, there is no revolutionary jokes to make on that. Your argumentation is not so far from the kind that would say, noooo, don’t use chemotherapy, it’s bad and patronizing, just smoke weed it’s better, you’re free… But yes, that is correct, you are free to drink, smoke, take pills, do whatever you want with your body even while trying to conceive. What they say is just, maybe you should take care, protect yourself and/or your partner. I mean, it’s common sense, feminists has to choose their combat at some point. Not every topic is a domination pattern created by some Machiavellian paternalist minds.

  4. “It’s not patronizing or sexism, it’s science.” It can be both.

    “I can tell you that bad habits while being pregnant is a real problem.” So why not focus on educating people about birth control, instead of telling all fertile women who could possibly get pregnant to not drink at all? The latter is a unusually high bar to set for people, given that there are alternative methods to achieving the same reduction of risk (i.e. people using more birth control.)

    “Not every topic is a domination pattern created by some Machiavellian paternalist minds.” Most people don’t think that’s what sexism is, or what’s going on here. Have you ever been rude to someone without realizing it? So, turns out, you (and groups of people) can also be incredibly sexist without realizing it. (Implicit bias) And sometimes, even when we are sort of aware of it, we make it really easy to hide this fact from ourselves. (Example: if you’ve ever treated a sibling or friend a little unfairly, and then told yourself a story about how no, what you did really was okay, but later on, someone called you out for it. (rationalizing self-interest; epistemology of ignorance, etc.) That’s something a lot of people do. Similar principle, but scaled up.)
    Sexism = you actions, not your intentions

  5. My understanding is that there is extremely little evidence that even small amounts of alcohol are dangerous to a fetus, and a fair amount that shows that small amounts of alcohol are not a significant danger at all. So, why isn’t this the message? My understanding, again, is that public health people tend to think that if they give this true message, some non-trivial percentage of people will not be able to just have small amounts of alcohol, but will have lots of it, enough that there is a significant danger. So, they push the false message that the only safe amount is none at all, even though that’s not really supported by the evidence, at least not very strongly. I understand this approach, I guess, but it’s certainly an infantilizing one, not one fit for dealing with adults in a free society. This is to say that Kukla is exactly right, and could reasonably push her position even further. Women should be treated like fully adult human beings, and given accurate information so as to shape their lives. I would like to think that this is the only plausible view, and wish we lived in a world where it was seen by everyone as the obvious conclusion that it is.

  6. The unthinking equation of “becoming pregnant” with “carrying the pregnancy to term” is profoundly annoying: there are plenty of people who might become pregnant but of whom it is not the case that they might have children. (Holding context fixed for the epistemic modal, of course.)

  7. I reacted negatively to the CDCs condescending recommendation but I’d like to understand why with a little more rigour. I have trouble following the comments from Rebecca Kukla.

    What should one conclude from comparing risk of alcohol caused disease with risk of general harm in our lives like not driving? Surely the argument can’t be that if the CDC does not comment on some risks in our lives, it cannot comment on the risk of alcohol caused disease. It is a public health organization and it identified a relatively non-invasive way to completely eliminate one particular disease. Is it that some who really like drinking view this as too invasive?

    The statement that “The ideal of zero risk is both impossible to meet and completely paralyzing to try to meet” in addition to being ableist also seems like a red-herring. Surely we want a health organization to make recommendations to improve public health even if those facts are true. It also confuses medical risk of disease with other types of risk more clearly outside the purview.

    I’m assuming the CDC recommends that a lot of people don’t drink or do recreational drugs with certain health conditions. So it can’t just be limiting people’s luxury.

    Can anyone offer a more thorough diagnosis of the problem?

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