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Archive for Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Statistics inaccurate on drinking, pregnancy

April 25, 2001

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— So many new mothers lie when asked whether they drank alcohol during pregnancy that some national statistics on birth defects should be thrown out, a government study says.

Only about one in 20 women who drink during pregnancy admits it on her child's birth certificate, according to a study presented Tuesday.

In most states, women are asked after delivery whether they smoked or drank alcohol during pregnancy. Their answers are listed on birth certificates along with records of birth defects.

But many new mothers lie about their drinking or answer no because they think they haven't consumed enough alcohol to hurt the child, said Marc Weisskopf, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention epidemiologist.

His study compared what women said for birth certificates and what they said in a telephone survey several years later.

Just seven of 278 women admitted alcohol use on the birth certificate; 32 admitted it in the telephone survey.

The study projected the number of women who actually drank during pregnancy was 131 nearly 20 times the number who admitted it on birth certificates.

The study urged the government to stop using alcohol data from birth certificates until accuracy can be improved. In 1999, 1 percent of women reported consuming alcohol during pregnancy.

The National Center for Health Statistics uses birth certificate data to pinpoint nationwide trends on pregnant women's alcohol use.

Exposure to alcohol in the womb can stunt growth, harm a baby's memory and contribute to learning problems.

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