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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Alcohol and Pregnancy Misleading Headline

Smoking and drinking during pregnancy
Smoking and drinking during pregnancy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
How often do you just glance at a headline in a newspaper, an on-line article or a magazine cover? Did you ever find that after reading the entire article the actual story or news is not what you were anticipating it to be? On June 20, 2012, there was a news story covered by a number of news outlets with the following headlines:
Here's the problem with this kind of headline, people are human and if they are looking for a way to rationalize their behaviors or habits they will run with headline and not take the time to read the whole report or to understand that this new research is just that - research. It was a study that was done following 1600 Danish women, of average age of 31, and their children.  According to the TIME Healthland article:
"Researchers studied slightly more than 1,600 Danish women and their children, comparing those born to nondrinkers with children of heavy, light, moderate or binge drinkers. Women in the low-consumption group had one to four drinks a week; moderate drinkers had five to eight drinks a week; and heavy drinkers had nine or more. Binge drinking was defined as having at least five drinks on a single occasion. The research included nearly a third of all Danish women who were pregnant between 1997 and 2003."
And in a statement issued by the study's authors: "Our findings show that low to moderate drinking is not associated with adverse effects on the children aged 5. However, despite these findings, additional large scale studies should be undertaken to further investigate the possible effects."
The critical phrase in the author's statement is this:  "However, despite these findings, additional large scale studies should be undertaken to further investigate the possible effects."

But the problem is many people will not read far enough into the articles, but instead will read the headline as a license to drink while pregnant, even though there have been many studies conducted about fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. 

Dr. Bruce Goldman, director of Substance Abuse Services at the Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, NY told HealthDay:
"These findings can easily send a very dangerous message to pregnant women. Women may underestimate and have difficulty acknowledging the frequency or quantity of alcohol consumed. Those suffering from alcoholism may attempt to rationalize that it is safe to drink moderately, something they may ultimately be unable to do."
Hopefully, some news outlets will take the time to interview parents who are trying to raise their children who were born with fetal alcohol syndrome. Perhaps then they will have a clearer image of the potential dangers of drinking while pregnant.

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