Abstract and Introduction
Alcohol use during pregnancy is a major preventable cause of adverse alcohol-related outcomes, including birth defects and developmental disabilities.* Alcohol screening and brief intervention (ASBI) is an evidence-based primary care tool that has been shown to prevent or reduce alcohol consumption during pregnancy; interventions have resulted in an increase in the proportion of pregnant women reporting abstinence (odds ratio = 2.26; 95% CI = 1.43–3.56). Previous national estimates have not characterized ASBI in populations of pregnant persons. Using 2017 and 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data, CDC examined prevalence of ASBI and characteristics of pregnant persons and nonpregnant women aged 18–49 years (reproductive-aged women) residing in jurisdictions that participated in the BRFSS ASBI module. During their most recent health care visit within the past 2 years, approximately 80% of pregnant persons reported being asked about their alcohol use; however, only 16% of pregnant persons who self-reported current drinking at the time of the survey (at least one alcoholic beverage in the past 30 days) were advised by a health care provider to quit drinking or reduce their alcohol use. Further, the prevalence of screening among pregnant persons who did not graduate from high school was lower than that among those who did graduate from high school or had at least some college education. This gap between screening and brief intervention, along with disparities in screening based on educational level, indicate missed opportunities to reduce alcohol use during pregnancy. Strategies to enhance ASBI during pregnancy include integrating screenings into electronic health records, increasing reimbursement for ASBI services, developing additional tools, including electronic ASBI, that can be implemented in a variety of settings.[2,3]
There is no known safe amount of alcohol, type of alcohol, or timing of alcohol use during pregnancy or while trying to become pregnant. Alcohol use among pregnant persons remains a public health concern. During 2015–2017, 11.5% of pregnant U.S. women aged 18–44 years reported current drinking, and during 2018–2020, 13.5% of pregnant adults aged 18–49 years reported current drinking. Brief intervention or behavioral counseling conducted in a primary care setting has been shown to increase the likelihood of abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends implementing ASBI for all adults aged ≥18 years in primary health care settings, including those who are pregnant, to reduce excessive alcohol use, which includes any alcohol use while pregnant. Despite these recommendations for universal screening, some populations might not be screened as frequently as others.
BRFSS is a cross-sectional, random-digit–dialed, annual telephone survey of noninstitutionalized U.S. adults aged ≥18 years† that collects data on health-related behaviors. CDC analyzed data from 23 states and the District of Columbia§ that participated in an optional BRFSS ASBI module in 2017 and 2019¶ (unweighted sample size = 248,901; median response rate = 45.9%  and 49.4% ). For states that participated in the ASBI module both years (California, Kansas, and Nebraska), analytic weights were adjusted proportionally to their sample size for each year. Pregnant persons** and reproductive-aged women were compared by age, race and ethnicity,†† education level,§§ employment status,¶¶ disability status,*** HIV risk,††† experience of frequent mental distress,§§§ chronic conditions,¶¶¶ health insurance status,**** having a usual health care provider,†††† residence in a state with expanded Medicaid,§§§§ cigarette use,¶¶¶¶ any alcohol use,***** and binge drinking.††††† Analyses were conducted to estimate the prevalence of alcohol use and screening§§§§§ among pregnant persons and reproductive-aged women who visited a health care provider in the past 2 years. Prevalence of brief intervention¶¶¶¶¶ was calculated among pregnant persons.
Prevalence estimates and 95% CIs were standardized to the age distribution of persons who gave birth to a live singleton infant in 2017 using vital statistics data.****** Survey procedures with Taylor series variance and weights were used to account for the sample design and nonresponse. Wald chi-square tests were used to test for differences with p<0.05 considered statistically significant. All analyses were conducted using SAS (version 9.4; SAS Institute). BRFSS data are publicly available, and their use is not subject to human subjects review. This activity was reviewed by CDC and was conducted consistent with applicable federal law and CDC policy.††††††
Among 950 pregnant persons in jurisdictions included in the 2017 and 2019 BRFSS ASBI module, 13.3% reported current drinking and 6.9% reported binge drinking (Table 1). Among reproductive-aged women, 56.4% reported current drinking and 20.2% reported binge drinking. Overall, 80.1% of pregnant persons and 86.0% of reproductive-aged women reported being screened for alcohol use at their last visit to a health care provider (Table 2). Pregnant persons who did not graduate from high school reported a lower prevalence of alcohol screening (53.5%) compared with those who graduated from high school (83.4%) and those with at least some college education (84.5%). A higher proportion of pregnant persons who reported behaviors that might increase the risk for HIV transmission were screened (95.8%) than were those without reported risk behaviors (78.6%). No significant differences in screening prevalence among pregnant persons were observed based on race and ethnicity, disability status, frequent mental distress, health insurance status, having a usual health care provider, or living in a Medicaid expansion state. However, among reproductive-aged women, screening prevalence was lower among those who were non-Hispanic and of another race or ethnicity (i.e., American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, or multiracial) than among those who were Hispanic or Latino, non-Hispanic Black or African American, and non-Hispanic White. Screening prevalence was also lower among reproductive-aged women who did not have health insurance than among those with any health insurance. Among pregnant persons who reported current drinking at the time of the survey, 96.7% (95% CI = 93.4–100.0) reported having been screened at their most recent health care visit.
Approximately one quarter (25.3%; 95% CI = 19.6–31.0) of pregnant persons who received alcohol screening were offered advice from a health care provider about what level of drinking is harmful or risky to their health (including any amount of drinking during pregnancy), and 12.3% (95% CI = 7.6–17.0) were advised to reduce their intake or quit drinking (Figure). Among pregnant persons who reported being screened during their last health care visit and self-reported current drinking, 28.8% (95% CI = 12.2–45.4) were offered advice about what level of drinking is harmful or risky to health and 16.1% (95% CI = 6.9–25.3) were advised to reduce their alcohol intake or quit drinking.
Prevalence* of age-standardized alcohol screening and brief intervention† among pregnant persons — Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention module, 23 states and the District of Columbia, 2017 and 2019§
Abbreviation: BRFSS = Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.
*With 95% CIs indicated by error bars.
†Brief intervention was based on responses to the questions, "Were you offered advice about what level of drinking is harmful or risky for your health?" and "At your last routine checkup, were you advised to reduce or quit your drinking?" These questions are only asked if participants responded "Yes" to the question, "You told me earlier that your last routine checkup was [within the past 2 years]. At that checkup, were you asked in person or on a form if you drink alcohol?" Because of survey design, it could not be determined whether the health care provider screened for alcohol use and gave a brief intervention before or after the patient reported alcohol use, or if the patient was using alcohol at the time of the health care visit. Self-reported current drinking was based on the BRFSS calculated variable of "Adults who reported having had at least one drink of alcohol in the past 30 days."
§Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin.
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2023;72(3):55-62. © 2023 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)