Approximately 18 percent of women in their first trimester of pregnancy used alcohol within the past month according to a new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The report showed that 6.6 percent of women in their first trimester of pregnancy engaged in binge drinking (i.e., drinking five or more drinks on the same occasion at least once in the past 30 days).

Women who drink alcohol while pregnant increase their infants' risk of developing a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), a group of conditions that can cause physical, behavioral and learning problems - some of which may have lifelong repercussions. Although there is no safe amount of alcohol for pregnant women to drink, they can lower the risk for their infants when they stop drinking alcohol immediately after finding out they are pregnant.

The report indicates that the level of alcohol use dropped sharply among pregnant woman in their second and third trimesters. The rate of past month alcohol use (i.e., at least one drink in the past 30 days) for women in the second trimester of pregnancy fell to 4.2 percent and among women in the third trimester dipped to 3.7 percent. By comparison, 55.5 percent of non-pregnant women aged 15 to 44 consumed alcohol in the past month.

"Although most women understand the risks of using alcohol while pregnant, much more needs to be done to reach out to women during the earliest stages of pregnancy," said Frances Harding, director of SAMHSA's Center for Substance Abuse Prevention. "All prospective parents, health care practitioners, and all women of childbearing-age, need to be aware of the importance of not drinking alcohol if a woman is pregnant or considering becoming pregnant."

SAMHSA's Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Center for Excellence web site, targeted at consumers and health practitioners, provides the latest scientific information and resources about the prevention and treatment of FASD. It is available at

SAMHSA's Data Spotlight report,18 Percent of Pregnant Women Drink Alcohol during Early Pregnancy, is based on the 2011 and 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) data. NSDUH is a scientifically conducted annual survey of approximately 67,500 people throughout the country, aged 12 and older.