Recent Research from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Data from the 2011-2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicates that 18% of women drank alcohol during early pregnancy in the United States.

Overall, 8.5% of pregnant women aged 15 to 44 drank alcohol in the past month and 2.7% binge drank. (This compares with 55.% of women aged 15 to 44 who were not pregnant who drank in the past month, with 24.7% binge drinking.

Most alcohol use by pregnant women occurred during the first trimester. Alcohol use was lower during the second and third trimesters than during the first (4.2% and 3.7% vs. 17.9%). These findings suggest that many pregnant women are not drinking after learning they are pregnant.

Data from 2006-2007 looked at alcohol use by pregnant women, recent mothers, and other women in the same age category. Pregnant women (11.6%) were significantly less likely to have used alcohol in the past month than recent mothers (42.1%) or all other women (54.0%).

Among current alcohol drinkers, both pregnant women and recent mothers drank alcohol on fewer days than other women (4.9 days for pregnant women, 4.4 days for recent mothers and 6.1 days for all  other women). Pregnant and recent mothers also drank fewer drinks on their drinking days (2.4 drinks for pregnant women, 2.5 drinks for recent mothers, and 3.0 drinks for all other women).

NSDUH Report

Data from the TEDS Report also suggests that trends in alcohol use by pregnant women are changing. The Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) looks at the type of substances reported by women entering substance abuse treatment.

While the proportion of female substance abuse treatment admissions aged 15 to 44 who were pregnant at treatment entry remained relatively stable between 2000 and 2010 (4.4% and 4.8%), the percentage of pregnant admissions reporting alcohol abuse (with or without drug abuse) decreased from 46.6 percent in 2000 to 34.8 percent in 2010.  A similar pattern was seen in women who were not pregnant.

See the data summary on alcohol use during pregnancy here and the summary on substance abuse treatment admissions and type of substance here.

For more on trends in the United States, see earlier posts: