CDC to Women: Don't Drink. Or Take Antidepressants. Or Forget Your Folic Acid. Or Treat Pain.

The new guidelines on alcohol consumption for young women are silly, but the CDC has been issuing similar rules for years.



The Internet is freaking out today over a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that women of childbearing age who are not on birth control should abstain from alcohol, lest they unknowingly damage their hypothetical progeny.

USA Today reported:

"Alcohol can permanently harm a developing baby before a woman knows she is pregnant," said Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and even if planned, most women won't know they are pregnant for the first month or so, when they might still be drinking. The risk is real. Why take the chance?

Which makes now a good moment for a reminder that this is hardly the first time the CDC has treated women as irresponsible potential baby-porters.

A quick note: The suggestions below are scientifically sound—more so, I would guess, than the booze recs. (For more on that, check out Jacob Sullum's "Drink Up, Moms!" or Emily Oster's excellent book, Expecting Better.)

I actually did take folic acid for years before I became pregnant. (Thanks, mom!) People who are on antidepressants should talk to their doctors about all the ramifications, including on an unplanned pregnancy. 

But that doesn't change the fact that there is something profoundly creepy about a government agency officially telling women to forgo pleasurable or life-improving choices solely on the basis of their status as the theoretical mothers of the nation's children.

OK, let's get to the nanny statism!

For starters, everyone with functional ovaries should be popping folic acid like T.I. is popping bottles.

The U. S. Public Health Service and CDC recommend that all women of childbearing age consume 0.4 mg (400 micrograms) of folic acid daily to prevent two common and serious birth defectsspina bifida and anencephaly.

All women between 15 and 45 years of age should consume folic acid daily because half of U.S. pregnancies are unplanned and because these birth defects occur very early in pregnancy (3-4 weeks after conception), before most women know they are pregnant.

Then, of course, as CDC honcho Thomas Freidan reminded us last year in a news release titled "Opioid painkillers widely prescribed among reproductive age women," doctors of women who are in pain should reconsider treating that pain with opioids, lest they damage a hypothetical future human:

"Taking opioid medications early in pregnancy can cause birth defects and serious problems for the infant and the mother," said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.  "Many women of reproductive age are taking these medicines and may not know they are pregnant and therefore may be unknowingly exposing their unborn child.  That's why it's critical for health care professionals to take a thorough health assessment before prescribing these medicines to women of reproductive age."

Next, think twice about those antidepressants, ladies! Because (again) you're probably pregnant right now, as a new study in the CDC's Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report noted just this week. One of the authors told CNN:

"Early pregnancy is time that is critical for baby's development and because so many women may be taking medications without knowing they are pregnant, we wanted to get a better sense of trends of antidepressant use of all women of reproductive age," said Jennifer N. Lind, epidemiologist in the CDC's Birth Defects Branch.

To be fair: This report was presented with much more nuance than the alcohol study, with headlines like "Women need better info about pregnancy and antidepressants," perhaps because antidepressants do not stimulate the same puritanical impulses as alcohol and opiates.

Pain meds, antidepressants, and booze carry risks for everyone. Having government officials ask "Why take the chance?" about women of reproductive age in particular suggests that there are no legitimate upsides to balance the equation. 

NEXT: Barack Obama Tells Americans to Fight Islamophobia, Rick Santorum Drops Out, African Mobile Company Hires Eric Holder to Fight Government Fine: P.M. Links

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  1. When exactly did Mattel sell C-Section Barbie there?

    1. What do you expect? Those are not childbearing hips.

    2. It’s part of the Grisly Murder Scene collection.

  2. And stop those breast self-exams.

  3. baby-porters

    I prefer baby-lagers. Baby-porters taste like baby piss

  4. Leave to the CDC to be a white knightin’ big daddy.

    “Aw baby, you just hush and let me take care of allll of this for ya. Now, ,just get your cute little but into the isolation chamber and starting breathing in that sexy nano-filtered air.”

  5. Reading the CDC stuff I see the term “developing baby” to refer to an early-stage product of conception.

    Why is the Obama administration promulgating this Religious Right propaganda?

    1. That is actually a good point. Is it suddenly a developing baby when it gives them an excuse to engage in their arrogant paternalism?

      1. Look, it’s ok to kill it, but it’s not ok to maybe damage it with booze and pills. Don’t ask any leftards to explain why. It just is. Maybe because an abortion is a clean, Highlander-like way to go?

        1. It’s not a human, but it’s organic…therefore we make Gaia cry if we pollute it. But as soon as it turns into a person, ehh

        2. there are some birth defects i’d probably prefer not being alive to having.

  6. It’s a good thing there is a sure-fire way for women who use drugs to prevent birth defects in unplanned pregnancies.

    1. Go back to Saudi Arabia, you misogynist oppressor!

      1. Eddie, in spite of our many differences, the one thing we both have in common is that neither of us has any idea what you’re talking about.

        1. I should have used the /sarc tag.

          You see, telling women they might benefit in any way from abstaining from premarital sex is something only a bearded mullah with four burka-clad wives would do.

          1. I think he was talking about Plan B, dude.

            1. Is it 100%?

              1. Wouldn’t it be (~)0%?

                Plan B is inducing a terminal birth defect no?

          2. Right, I actually wasn’t doing that at all though.

            1. You have a different sure-fire method?

              1. Woman can terminate an unplanned pregnancy. No birth means no birth defects.

                1. This method is super effective, as long as it’s used as planned.

                  Less than 1 out of 100 women will get pregnant each year if they always use the birth control shot as directed

                2. Abortions have “failed”, in that babies have been born during an attempt. Tiny fraction and has to be late in term. But it aint 100%.

                  Then again, if you count Mary, neither is abstinance.

                  1. Abortions have “failed”, in that babies have been born during an attempt. Tiny fraction and has to be late in term. But it aint 100%.

                    Sometimes with hilarious results

      2. Sorry I’m not very up to date on my feminist dogma, I can’t remember, is it that being a slut is liberating, or that all sex is rape?

        1. Sex is rape if the man enjoys it, or the woman regrets it.

          1. Sex is rape if the man enjoys it, or the woman regrets it.

            PIV is always rape, okay?

  7. The Internet is freaking out today over a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

    People actually pay attention to shit like this?

    1. People actually pay attention to shit like this?

      This is sarcasm, right? Maybe you aren’t a parent.

      The CDC regularly publishes data that proves your toddler’s car seat will catch fire in a rear end collision at any speed or that flu shots prevent a temporary decline in the cognitive development of fetuses in twenty-eighth trimester that have contracted the zika virus.

      For the children, why take the risk?

    2. I feel like I’m singling you out today Hyperion. It’s nothing personal, I swear.

    3. Yes they are professors in nursing school.

  8. My mother drank and smoked while she was pregnant with me. Look how I turned out!


    1. Is this comment a semi-veiled attempt to delegitimize my brood of butt babies?

  10. If you give consideration to the number of women between 15-45, the number of babies born each year, and the frequency that those women are having sex without birth control; the odds are probably on the order of 1:10,000 that any given woman (15-45) is in the first month of pregnancy and clueless about it.

    But just in case… y’all better quit the drinking and painkillers and such. #theriskisreal

  11. Are there ” scientific studies” that show opiods cause birth defects, or is that CDC dogfucker just talking out his ass?

    Hell, I looked it up and there are a few but a quick look indicates “weak” is too strong a word to describe the correlation.
    I should see if they break it out by the conditions resulting in the prescriptions. As KM-W said, moms-to-be can’t go wrong with folic acid as spina bifida was on teh list.

  12. “half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned”

    Good God really? Between condoms, contraception IUDs and pills, and abortion I don’t understand how this can be.

    If your unexpected progeny may have been exposed to alcohol or other bad things then you should just abort it. This way women can still drink and stuff and not give birth to retarded offspring.

    1. Unplanned does not mean unwanted.

      1. They’re all unwanted to him

    2. Lack of education is a big reason. What good are the tools if you don’t know how to use them?

    3. Good God really? Between condoms, contraception IUDs and pills, and abortion I don’t understand how this can be.

      Good God really? You would laugh at the naivete of ‘abstinence is the best policy’ sex education but refuse to believe that just because condoms, IUDs, pills, and abortions aren’t available that sex doesn’t happen.

      What kind of statist expects consenting adults not to do what consenting adults do unless they have a plan?

      I’d be interested to know what portion of that number is IVF couples who went in hoping for one kid and came out with three or more.

      Full Disclosure: I had the same opinion and even chided a couple people about unplanned children. Then we had a second child within a year of the first. We had planned on having three, just on a more protracted plan. I ended up having to apologize to some people.

  13. “First rule of Femm Club: you ALWAYS talk about Femm Club.”
    “Second rule of Femm Club: you ALWAYS talk about Femm Club.”
    “Third rule of Femm Club: ain’t nobody what’s can tell me nuffin, unless they are a minority or ancient FemmSage.”
    “Fourth rule of Femm Club: You are either with us or against us. Or a Cuck.”
    “Fifth rule of Femm Club: If a Femm is represented in ANY, Potentially or Actually, negative manner or ANY, Potentially or Actually, prohibitive manner, it is Your duty as a Femm to remark ad hominem and cry Patriarchy like the Goddess demands.”

    Like it or not, the State and its agencies are scrambling to establish a reliable tax base now that the nuclear family is no longer the super majority. Single mothers make shit for pay, fair or not, and dont pay near the taxes of two parent households, especially when compared to their lesbian counterparts, who make more than heterosexual women and by necessity plan their children, as neither Lezbot produces sperm. And I dont have to go into what the effects of a single parent household upon the children are; just take every potential advantage a kid has in life, neutralize it, and make everything else 20% harder for them. INDEPENDENCE! Need no Man! Need no CDC! Down with Penis! Up with “Gawd mom, dad is so gross”!

    Tl;dr: If you are wise enough to see this as paternalism, congratulations, this wasn’t for you.

  14. I am not aware of any evidence that shows that moderate alcohol or opiate use causes birth defects or any problems whatsoever. However if you are on anti-depressants then you should probably think twice about bringing a new person into the world.

  15. Best solution: Don’t have kids.

    Childfree: All the sex, none of the problems.

  16. All three of our girls were born in a birthing center by midwives. Each time they would tell Mrs. Hobbit to drink a glass of wine in the evening if stresses got too bad. All three daughters turned out just fine (although #1 turned into a liberal; we’re trying to fix that).

    The key word is moderate. A glass of wine in the evening probably does no harm. A bottle of wine a day is probably going to cause some problems.

    … Hobbit

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