As an ob-gyn taking care of women every day, it’s not uncommon for one of my patients to tell me, “I just have some shots and beers on the weekend—what’s the harm in that? All my friends do it.” However, what a patient may consider “normal” drinking could put her health at great risk now and in the future.
Women who drink too much often end up losing out. Judgment becomes clouded. They may have accidents and car crashes. If the drinking continues, they may lose their job, their friends, their family, and other things they hold dear. Women who drink and have sex without using birth control are at risk for becoming pregnant and having an alcohol-exposed infant. Sunday, September 9, is International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) Awareness Day. Alcohol use during pregnancy is the greatest preventable cause of mental retardation in children. Children exposed to alcohol during pregnancy may also have problems with coordination, controlling emotions, socialization, decision-making, understanding consequences of their actions, and more.
The amount of alcohol in a drink can vary widely. A 12-ounce can of beer, 5-ounce glass of wine and 1 ½-ounces of hard liquor (rum, tequila, vodka, etc.) all contain the same amount of alcohol. But, just one martini or margarita could actually have three servings of alcohol in it. Risky drinking for women is defined as more than three drinks per occasion or more than seven drinks a week.
If it takes a woman more than two drinks in one hour to feel tipsy, she may be developing a tolerance to alcohol, a strong sign of problem drinking. Other signs include:
- Friends and family telling her that she drinks too much
- Her own personal feelings that she needs to cut down on drinking
- Her needing or wanting a drink the morning after a night out to relieve a hangover
Do not drink any alcohol if you are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, taking medications that warn of alcohol use on the label, or have medical conditions in which alcohol use can cause further harm. If you drink, use birth control exactly as prescribed, and if you miss a pill, use condoms until your next period. Be smart and learn your safe limits.
David J. Garry, DO, is co-director of obstetrics and maternal-fetal medicine and associate professor of clinical ob-gyn, Montefiore Medical Center/Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY.