Alcohol Use During Pregnancy Declines in the United States

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:

Pregnant Teens and Substance Use: Taking a Look at Substance Abuse Treatment Admissions in the United States


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) in the United States recently released a report looking at annual admissions to substance abuse treatment facilities for young women, ages 12-19, between 2007 and 2010.

The report shows that of the approximately 57,000 teenage female (ages 12 to 19) substance abuse treatment admissions each year, about 2,000 (4 percent) involve pregnant teens. The report highlights the similarities and differences between pregnant and non-pregnant teens.


  • About half (51 percent) of pregnant teen admissions reported some use of drugs or alcohol in the month prior to their treatment entry.
  • Nearly one fifth (19.3 percent) of pregnant teen admissions had used a drug or alcohol on a daily basis in the month before entering treatment


Interestingly, there were no differences in marijuana abuse between the two groups. Pregnant teens were less likely to report alcohol use (45.7 vs. 58.5 percent) while they were more likely to report use of methamphetamine or amphetamines (16.9 vs. 8.4 percent). The report does not have data on tobacco use which is often interesting to consider as many women use both alcohol and tobacco during pregnancy and these are the two of the most harmful drugs.

There were some other differences between the two groups that suggest a need for additional or different supports. Pregnant teen admissions were MORE likely than other female teen admissions to be or to report:

  • 18 to 19 years old
  • Government assistance (such as Medicaid) as the expected/actual primary source of payment
  • Less than a high school education (0-11 years)
  • Public assistance as a primary source of income support
  • Referral to treatment from community agencies, such as self-help groups, churches, and Federal, State, or local government agencies that provide social services

See the press release here and the report here.


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (May 9, 2013). The TEDS Report: Characteristics of Pregnant Teen Substance Abuse Treatment Admissions. Rockville, MD.

Fact sheet on Supporting Women with FASD in Residential Substance Abuse Treatment

New series of fact sheets from SAMHSA FASD Center for Excellence


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Center for Excellence in the United States has recently developed a series of “Technical Assistance Impact” fact sheets designed to support organizations in preventing and addressing FASD.

The Addressing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) In Women’s Residential Substance Abuse Treatment Fact Sheet  provides information for women’s residential substance abuse treatment centres seeking to expand their capacity to address FASD, and describes the value of these services for systems, clients, and their families.

The fact sheet discusses how women with FASD are a group that are often under-looked in substance abuse treatment settings and that they are often at-risk of having an alcohol-exposed pregnancy. The sheet provides some suggestions on how treatment can be modified to address women’s needs as well as the benefits of having an ‘FASD-informed’ lens in these treatment settings.

For more on ways of working with women with FASD, see earlier posts: