A new report from government health officials suggests that young women who are old enough to become pregnant should avoid alcohol unless they're using birth control.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released statistics this week that said 3.3 million U.S. women between the ages of 15 and 44 are at risk of having their baby develop fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, or FASDs.
According to the CDC, about half of all U.S. pregnancies are unplanned. Even if planned, most women don't know they're pregnant until they are 4 to 6 weeks along.
It said those women risk exposing their developing baby to alcohol because they are drinking, having sex and not using birth control to prevent pregnancy.
"It is recommended that women who are pregnant or might be pregnant not drink alcohol at all," the CDC said in its report. "FASDs do not occur if a developing baby is not exposed to alcohol before birth."
According to the CDC, 1 in 20 school children may have FASDs.
Issues that can occur in the child may include:
Drinking while pregnant can also increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity and sudden infant death syndrome.
The issue cost the U.S. $5.5 billion in 2010, according to the CDC and the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.
The CDC said 3 in 4 women who want to get pregnant as soon as possible report drinking alcohol. It also said that 100 percent of FASDs are completely preventable.
It recommended that potential mothers be aware that any level of alcohol could harm their baby. The child's brain, body or organs can be affected at any time during the pregnancy.
For more information, head to the CDC's website here.
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