Well, that didn’t go well.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week issued new advice aimed at preventing fetal alcohol syndrome - and the warning went over like a flat beer.
Here’s what the CDC said: Women, abstain from drinking if you are trying to get pregnant or are not using birth control when you have sex.
Here’s why the CDC said that: It found that three in four women who plan to get pregnant soon are still drinking alcohol when they stop using birth control.
It estimated that about 3 million women between the ages of 15 and 44 “are at risk of exposing their developing baby to alcohol because they are drinking, sexually active and not using birth control to prevent pregnancy.”
Here’s what social media thought about that message.
“The language insinuates that your womb is a Schrodinger's box and you shouldn't pour alcohol into it unless you've peeked in there to be 100 percent sure the coast is clear.” said an article in The Atlantic.
Story headlines reflected the anger over what some people took as preachy, condescending advice about “hypothetical babies.”
“Protect Your Womb From the Devil Drink.”
“CDC Says Women Shouldn't Drink Unless They're on Birth Control. Is It Drunk?!?”
“The CDC Has Some Insulting Advice For Women Who Drink.”
The CDC scored love, though, from the Daily Caller with its headline: “Women Freak Out When CDC Recommends Not Poisoning Their Babies.”
But that did not reflect the majority opinion.
“The agency’s logic is that about half of all American pregnancies are unplanned, and many women don’t know they’re pregnant for the first month or so,” wrote Ruth Graham for Slate.
“But it’s the kind of swath-yourself-in-bubble-wrap thinking that has turned modern pregnancy into a nine-month slog of joyless paranoia.”
Drinking alcohol during a pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth or sudden infant death syndrome. Babies born with a type of alcohol spectrum disorder can face a wide range of mental, behavioral and physical problems that can stay with them their entire lives.
The CDC’s report also pointed out that drinking can make a woman more vulnerable to injuries or violence and sexually transmitted diseases.
That message bombed, too.
Where’s the advice warning men that drinking can lead to violent behavior and STDs, social media fumed?
“The assumption that women should avoid drinking so they don't become the subject of unwanted sexual attention — which can lead to an unintended pregnancy or an STD — is one of the many victim-blaming pieces of advice that women regularly hear about how they should avoid being raped,” wrote the ThinkProgress blog.
The CDC’s principal deputy director Anne Schuchat told reporters on Tuesday that the agency’s new message was aimed at more than just women.
“It’s important to note that women who are drinking during pregnancy are not trying to harm their babies,” she said. “They are either not aware of their risks, are not aware they are pregnant, or need help to stop drinking.
“We urge women and their partners and their friends to be supportive of that idea ... ‘I’m not going to drink for a while, because I'm thinking about getting pregnant.’”
Emily Oster, an economist at Brown University who wrote a book the advice women get when they’re pregnant, told NPR that the CDC has an important message to spread, but “the way (the CDC) stated this is very extreme.”
Given the tone and judgment in the message, Oster said, it touched a nerve.