This week has been a busy week in women’s health; it started with a new panel urging doctors to screen for depression in expectant mothers during and after pregnancy, which is a huge step for recognizing and treating maternal mental illness. And then Wednesday, the CDC posted a simple press release and infographic on alcohol and pregnancy.
Or so they thought.
The release, titled “Young Women Should Avoid Alcohol Unless Using Birth Control,” caused an uproar. The warning went on to say that an estimated 3.3 million women aged 15 to 44 are at risk of unintentionally exposing a developing baby to alcohol because they are drinking, sexually active, and not using birth control.
Now, we can all agree that preventing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and its related health issues is a goal shared by everyone – pregnant or not. But the manner in which the CDC presented the information left many wanting. There were arguments over how the infographic focused solely on women, and the CDC’S warning only added to the ongoing debate over the control of women’s bodies. There have been some media outlets that defended the CDC and its message, but it doesn’t seem to be making a difference. The comments section on the CDC Facebook page quickly filled up with angry responses and negative feedback without a response from the CDC, which is a bit unusual as the CDC regularly replies to comments and posts on its Facebook page.
Additionally, the CDC has yet to publicly comment out on the response the information received, at this point they might actually bring about more backlash if they respond to the specific recommendation. It might serve them well, however, to remind readers that they are just suggesting that women reframe from alcohol when not on birth control and they, as an organization, have no power to implement any new procedures or guidelines, such as requiring women to show proof of birth control when purchasing alcohol.
I think we can all agree that the CDC could have handled the situation better, or at least changed the title of its recommendation.