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What does alcohol have to do with gynecology? Besides the fact that we all know alcoholism is bad for general health and extremely dangerous for a fetus during pregnancy, not a lot, we would think! But the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists (ACOG) disagrees and now says that all women seeing their OBGYN, whether they are pregnant or not, should be screened for alcohol use. Perhaps some see identifying people who are at risk of developing a dependence on alcohol or are already alcoholics is a noble cause, but do women who are going to their gynecologist for, let's say, a PAP smear really want to be subjected to an alcohol test?

At SteadyHealth, we don't think so! We think there is nothing wrong with asking women questions about alcohol consumption, but that the ACOG's new proposal is a little too reminiscent of Orwell. The ACOG's healthcare committee said: "It should be noted that women who drink at risk levels are less likely to maintain routine annual visits, and screening should be considered for episodic visits if not completed within the past 12 months." They proposed that women get tested every year and within the first trimester of pregnancy. The folks at ACOG point out that heavy drinking puts women's reproductive systems at risk and leads to a higher incidence of sexually transmitted diseases, some cancers, menstrual disorders, and of course placing a fetus at risk during pregnancy.

But should this type of screening be compulsory for all women seeing OBGYNs? During pregnancy, it makes at least a little sense as drinking really is dangerous in pregnancy and such a procedure could be seen as part of routine prenatal care. But this kind of opinion creates a slippery slope of intervention that could well be dangerous. It could also prevent women who do have an alcohol problem from seeing an OBGYN when they need one.

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