Recommendations surrounding women’s health before, during, and after pregnancy haven’t always been straightforward or easy to digest. Prime example: Whether or not it’s safe to drink during pregnancy and how much? To take a closer look at what’s really going on, Katherine Hartmann, M.D., Ph.D., deputy director of the Institute for Medicine and Public Health at Vanderbilt University, went searching for answers—real numbers indicating whether women, specifically newly pregnant women, were actually pouring themselves that glass of red wine.
Hartmann’s research, which was published in the April 2017 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology, comes after a public firestorm arose when the CDC issued a new recommendation that all women who are planning a pregnancy or not using reliable contraception should abstain from alcohol use entirely. That’s a pretty sweeping call-to-action, considering there are 61 million American women of reproductive age, and about 43 million are considered to be “potentially at risk of becoming pregnant,” according to the study. It’s also a slightly concerning suggestion, given that past research has found conflicting results as to whether it’s actually NBD if a woman has a drink every now and again early on in her pregnancy.
So Hartmann’s team analyzed pregnant women’s alcohol consumption overall, theorizing that “whether or not it was a planned pregnancy or an unintended one, as soon as people had a positive pregnancy test, they [would] quit,” she says. That way, rather than looking at whether or not alcohol is safe in the early conception window, they would find out what habits these pregnant women had in the first place.