Report Details Drug And Alcohol Use By Pregnant Women
May 11, 2012

Report Details Drug And Alcohol Use By Pregnant Women

Connie K. Ho for

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recently released a report with interesting statistics regarding pregnant women, including the use of cigarettes and other drugs.

The article states that 21.8 percent of pregnant White women between ages 15 to 44 (within the past 30 days) smoked cigarettes; this is higher than the level among pregnant Black women (14.2 percent) and pregnant Hispanic women (6.5 percent) in the same 15 to 44 age range. Conversely, there was a higher rate for pregnant Black women (7.7 percent) in the use of illicit drugs than pregnant White women (4.4 percent) and pregnant Hispanic women (3.1 percent).

The report is important in raising awareness that pregnant women who smoke put their babies in danger; a mother´s smoking habit can cause Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

“A mom who smokes has less circulating oxygen in her body and thus, so does her unborn baby,” explained Dr. Ari Brown in her book Baby 411. “This is called fetal hypoxia. There is also less blood flow to the uterus and placenta, and therefore to the baby. Lastly, nicotine goes right through the placenta and circulates in the bloodstream of the fetus.”

The report by SAMHSA also provided information on alcohol use by pregnant women. The rate of alcohol use by pregnant Black and White women is almost the same (12.8 percent and 12.2 percent), but their levels are higher than Hispanic women (7.4 percent). Generally, Hispanic women tended to less likely use alcohol and cigarettes.

“When pregnant women use alcohol, tobacco, or illicit substances they are risking health problems for themselves and poor birth outcomes for their babies,” commented SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde in a prepared statement. “Pregnant women of different races and ethnicities may have diverse patterns of substance abuse. It is essential that we use the findings from this report to develop better ways of getting this key message out to every segment of our community so that no woman or child is endangered by substance use and abuse.”

In addition, the data provided by the report will help health professionals plan educational programs.

“Health care providers may want to consider using this information to deliver relevant health education to their patients about risks associated with illicit drug, alcohol, and tobacco use,” noted the authors of the report.

SAMHSA already has a few programs that address substance abuse among pregnant women. Many of the programs are under the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Center for Excellence. For example, Project CHOICES is a program focused on assisting women who have an alcohol-exposed pregnancy before they become pregnant; the program provides information and help for the patients. Screening and Brief Intervention (SBI) is another program that identifies people in need and provides them with assistance. The program includes a 10 to 15 minute intervention with pregnant women who report drinking along with a written assessment of alcohol. A third program, the Parent-Child Assistance Program, utilizes an intensive paraprofessional home visitation model to help women who have substance abuse decrease their risks over a three-year period.

For more information on the effects drinking alcohol can have on a pregnant mother, visit March of Dimes online.