The potential effects of drinking alcohol while pregnant are well known, but some expectant mothers in Massachusetts may not fully realize the dangers or may have received a false negative about a pregnancy from a doctor, and as a result they may drink during a pregnancy’s early stages.

There have been recent updates in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s warnings about drinking while pregnant and fetal alcohol syndrome. According to USA Today, officials from the center are now warning teenagers and women of childbearing age to refrain from drinking alcohol if they are trying to get pregnant. Additionally, the CDC warns them that if they are sexually active but not using protection, they should not drink. Many women’s rights activists are unhappy about this statement, claiming it places blame or undue responsibility on women who are not trying to get pregnant, as well as unfairly restricting them from the enjoyment of drinking. However, states the CDC, more than 3 million women may be risking alcohol exposure to their unborn children, whether they don’t know yet that they are pregnant or are not using birth control.

The effects of fetal alcohol syndrome are often serious and may be disabling for life. According to WebMD, they include such cognitive or physical impairments as learning disabilities and impaired growth. Evidence suggests that even if alcohol is consumed during the early stages of pregnancy, damage may be avoided if the expectant mother stops drinking immediately upon finding out she is pregnant. Mistakes in diagnosing pregnancy or in improperly administering birth control may lead to women thinking they are safe to drink alcohol, by not realizing they are pregnant.