Alcohol and Women

American College of Obstretricians and Gynecologists

All women should know the warning signs of problem drinking.

Alcohol’s Effect on the Body

Alcohol slows down your body. The more you drink, the more it slows your body’s response to your brain.

Alcohol use is linked with:

  • About one-half of fatal car crashes
  • Two-thirds of drownings
  • One-half of fires
  • One-half of severe falls
  • Violence (including domestic violence)
  • Suicide
  • Damage to the fetus and newborn that lasts a lifetime

Special Concerns for Women

For some women, alcohol use could increase their risk for:

  • Certain cancers (breast, for instance)
  • Osteoporosis
  • Early menopause
  • Irregular periods
  • Infertility
  • Miscarriage in pregnant women
  • Having a baby with fetal alcohol syndrome

What Is Problem Drinking?

Drinking becomes problem drinking when it harms your health, behavior or relationships. Problem drinking sometimes is called alcoholism.

You may not know if you have a drinking problem. Here are some signs:

  • Drinking alone when you feel angry or sad
  • Drinking in a pattern (every day or every week at the same time)
  • Planning activities around drinking
  • Drinking to relieve pain or stress
  • Drinking more than you meant to or after you told yourself you wouldn’t
  • Drinking to get drunk
  • Thinking a lot about drinking
  • Showing a personality change when you drink

How Can I Get Help?

Problem drinkers can get help. If a woman has a drinking problem, she has some choices for treatment. Addiction to alcohol cannot be cured, but it can be treated with success.

Treatment options include:

  • Stopping drinking and safely getting alcohol out of your system with the help of a doctor
  • Taking medication to help prevent relapse
  • Counseling — including for friends and family members — to help cope with the stress of problem drinking
  • Group therapy led by professionals or people who have drinking problems


Some women may wonder if they have a drinking problem. It’s a good idea to know the warning signs of problem drinking. If you or someone you know has a drinking problem, seek help.

This excerpt from ACOG’s Patient Education Pamphlet is provided for your information. It is not medical advice and should not be relied upon as a substitute for visiting your doctor. If you need medical care, have any questions, or wish to receive the full text of this Patient Education Pamphlet, please contact your obstetrician-gynecologist.

To ensure the information is current and accurate, ACOG titles are reviewed every 18 months.

Copyright © February 2000 The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists