Drug Treatment Plan Reduces Prenatal Health Risks
> 7/1/2008 9:23:43 AM

Research has long drawn a direct connection between drug, alcohol and tobacco use by pregnant women and subsequent health problems in their newborn children. A new, all-encompassing study in the Journal of Perinatology reinforces the importance of pre-natal drug treatment in expectant mothers. Data gathered from nearly 50,000 subjects implies that medical outcomes for pregnant women with drug or alcohol problems who receive rehabilitative treatment are nearly identical to those who refrained from pre-natal substance use altogether.

This study revolved around Early Start, a rehabilitation program designed for pregnant at-risk women by prominent HMO Kaiser Permanante. Researchers tested subjects for the presence of alcohol, marijuana, methamphetamines, cocaine, heroin, and, perhaps most significantly, tobacco (which was by far the most widely used substance in the study).

The amazing fact that 13% of American women continue to smoke during pregnancy stands as a testament to the addictive power of tobacco. Repeated studies confirm that the babies of smokers are more likely to experience delayed fetal growth leading to preterm delivery, placental abnormalities, stillbirth, excessive blood loss during delivery, and dangerously low birth weight. These problems do not end after birth: Underweight infants face a significantly higher risk of developing diabetes, cerebral palsy and various learning disorders.

The study’s results are both revealing and discouraging. When compared to subjects who received ongoing intervention, the 156 women who tested positive for substance abuse but failed to participate in any stage of the Early Start program were:

  • 16.2 times as likely to deliver a stillborn child
  • 6.8 times as likely to suffer a placental abruption
  • 1.8 times as likely to deliver a child with dangerously low birth weight
  • 2.2 times as likely to deliver a child with cardiovascular problems requiring neonatal ventilation

The good news: Statistics for members of the affected subject sample who underwent pre-natal treatment plans with Early Start were nearly identical to those who did not smoke, drink or use drugs at all during their pregnancies.

Early Start isn't just successful, it's cost effective, because the price of treating an expectant mother is far lower than that of rehabilitating a newborn with significant health problems.The program was designed with convenience in mind: After initial screening, each participant reguarly recieves urine test kits through the mail, and organizers incorporate substance abuse counselling sessions into each prenatal care appointment.

The most important conclusion to draw from this study is that pregnant women who smoke, drink, or use drugs should seek treatment immediately, no matter when their due date might be. No time is too late. The program is available and convenient—and it works. -Patrick Coffee

No comments yet.

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy