The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is making a pretty serious allegation: women of childbearing age should avoid alcohol, unless they're using birth control.

"Alcohol can permanently harm a developing baby before a woman knows she is pregnant," said Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC. "About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and even if planned, most women won't know they are pregnant for the first month or so, when they might still be drinking. ... The risk is real. Why take the chance?"

According to the CDC, approximately 3.3 million women between ages 15-44 are at risk of exposing a fetus to alcohol because they drink, are sexually active, and are not using birth control. The CDC also says even women who intend to get pregnant are at risk - with 3 out of 4 continuing to drink after they quit using birth control.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders affect one in 20 school children and can cause "lasting physical, behavioral and intellectual disabilities that can last for a child's lifetime," according to the CDC.

Though abstaining from alcohol while knowingly pregnant is always advised, is it realistic to abstain from alcohol completely when you do not intend to get pregnant?

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