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NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine, Trusted Health Information from the National Institutes of Health

Rethinking Drinking

Women and Alcohol

Pregnant woman refusing a drink
Woman Drinking Alone

Women react differently than men to alcohol and face higher risks from it. Pound for pound, they have less water in their bodies.

Since alcohol resides primarily in body water, women develop alcohol-related problems at lower drinking levels. Their drinking patterns—especially how much and how often they drink—differ, too.

Women drinkers are more likely to develop liver inflammation and are more susceptible to alcohol-related heart disease.

Pregnancy and Drinking

Any drinking during pregnancy is risky. Heavy drinking can put a fetus at increased risk for learning, behavioral, and other problems.

Are you at risk?

Research suggests that a woman is more likely to drink excessively if she has:

60.5 percent of U.S. women 18 or older had at least one drink in the past year.
14.6 percent had four to five drinks monthly or more often in the past year.
  • Parents and siblings (or other blood relatives) with alcohol problems
  • A partner who drinks heavily
  • The ability to "hold her liquor"
  • A history of depression
  • A history of childhood physical or sexual abuse.

Spring 2014 Issue: Volume 9 Number 1 Page 24