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Three Key Messages to Share with Clients in Honor of National Women’s Health Week

Three Key Messages to Share with Clients in Honor of National Women’s Health Week

National Women’s Health Week starts each year on Mother’s Day to encourage women to make their health a priority. This message is especially important given that women’s drinking has increased substantially over the last two decadesThough men still drink more overall than women do, gender gaps in drinking have narrowed, and in some cases, women are now drinking more than men in the same age group. For instance, women ages 18 to 25 are now more likely to drink and binge drink more than men, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. In addition, nearly 1 in 7 pregnant women say they drink alcohol, and about 1 in 20 report binge drinking in the past 30 days. 

Social workers can help women prioritize their health by making conversations about alcohol use part of routine practice. As providers of mental and behavioral health services in a broad range of settings, social workers play a pivotal role in preventing risky drinking among women, including any alcohol use during pregnancy. 

Here are three key messages about women and alcohol that can be shared with clients:  

1. Drinking in moderation for women means one drink or less in a day.

To reduce the risk of alcohol-related harms, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that women who are not pregnant can choose not to drink, or to limit intake to one drink or less in a day. 

A standard drink contains 14 grams of pure alcohol, the amount found in a single beer (12 ounces); a single shot (1.5 ounces); and a single glass of wine (5 ounces).

2. Women face unique health risks from drinking.

For women, even one drink a day may increase the risk of breast cancer by about 10 percent, with the risk increasing the more they drink. Those who are pregnant or can become pregnant also risk alcohol-exposed pregnancy and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs), a range of lifelong behavioral, intellectual, and physical disabilities that may affect up to 1 in 20 school children nationwide. Alcohol use during pregnancy can also increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm delivery, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

3. There is no known safe amount, no safe time, and no safe type of alcohol to drink while pregnant.

There is no known safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy. There is also no safe time during pregnancy to drink. All types of alcohol can be harmful, including wine, beer, and liquor. And even though some babies may not be affected by alcohol exposure during pregnancy, others may have lifelong effects, including FASDs. If a client who is pregnant is using alcohol, the safest thing to do is to stop drinking. Every day matters.

NASW Foundation and the Health Behavior Research and Training Institute at The University of Texas at Austin Steve Hicks School of Social Work are working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and leading professional organizations in a national initiative to encourage health professionals to help prevent prenatal alcohol and other substance use. The FASD National Partner Network is the only one of its kind that includes social workers at the center of prevention practice – along with colleagues in family medicine, obstetrics-gynecology, pediatrics, nursing, and medical assisting.

Resources

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This initiative, Engaging Social Workers in Preventing Alcohol- and Other Substance-Exposed Pregnancies, is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as part of a financial assistance award totaling $560,000 with 100 percent funded by CDC/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, CDC/HHS, or the U.S. Government.

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Article by Diana Ling, MA, Program Manager; and Anna Mangum, MSW, MPH, Senior Health Strategist; Health Behavior Research and Training Institute, Steve Hicks School of Social Work, The University of Texas at Austin.

 

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