Did The WHO Really Say Women Of Childbearing Age Shouldn't Drink Alcohol?

The World Health Organization (WHO) released the first draft of a June 2021 report about an action plan on alcohol, and people have become enraged with what they believe the WHO said about women and drinking. Articles, videos, and social media posts say the WHO wants to ban all women of childbearing age from drinking. That would include women ages 18 to 50, according to The Irish Post and the Daily Mail.

The outrage appears to stem from page 21 of the WHO's report, in which the organization wrote, "Appropriate attention should be given to prevention of the initiation of drinking among children and adolescents, prevention of drinking among pregnant women and women of childbearing age, and protection of people from pressures to drink, especially in societies with high levels of alcohol consumption where heavy drinkers are encouraged to drink even more." However, this does not mean the WHO recommends banning women of childbearing age (which they define as 15 years of age and up) from drinking alcohol. Let's take a deeper look into this report.

What is the WHO report about?

According to the report, the WHO is planning ways to bring awareness to the harmful use of alcohol, mentioning a possible "world no alcohol day/week." The organization also released a statement to Newsweek clarifying their report, saying, "The current draft of WHO's global action plan does not recommend abstinence of all women who are of an age at which they could become pregnant. However, it does seek to raise awareness of the serious consequences that can result from drinking alcohol while pregnant, even when the pregnancy is not yet known."

According to the CDC, drinking while pregnant can cause fetal alcohol syndrome — a diagnosis used to describe a wide array of health problems a baby experiences from the mother drinking alcohol while pregnant. However, the WHO said "even when the pregnancy is not yet known," drinking could be troublesome. The organization could focus on women who are already pregnant or are considering pregnancy. Not all women want to have children, of course, nor do they have to. Hopefully, this information will be cleared up even further in the final report.