Nav: Home

Alcohol and pregnancy policies: Birth outcomes & prenatal care use by race

July 01, 2019

In the U.S. state policies pertaining to alcohol use during pregnancy have been in effect for more than 40 years.

These policies include:
  • Mandatory warning signs
  • Priority access to substance abuse treatment for pregnant women
  • Requirements to report evidence of alcohol use during pregnancy to law enforcement or child welfare agencies-- or to a health authority for the purposes of data gathering and treatment
  • Laws that define alcohol use during pregnancy as child abuse/child neglect
  • Laws that limit toxicological tests as evidence in criminal prosecutions of fetal or child harm
  • Involuntary commitment of pregnant women to treatment or to protective custody.
Previous research has found that some of these policies increase adverse birth outcomes and decrease prenatal care use.

This research examines whether effects of alcohol/pregnancy policies vary by race.

The authors examine 1972-2015 Vital Statistics data and policy data. The dataset includes more than 150 million singleton births. Outcomes are preterm birth (PTB), low birthweight (LBW), and prenatal care use.

Results show that the effect of alcohol/pregnancy policies varied by race for preterm birth, varied in a few cases for low birthweight, and generally did not vary for prenatal care use.

For White women, most policies had adverse effects on PTB and/or LBW including policies intended to support pregnant women who use or abuse alcohol such as mandatory warning signs laws, priority access to substance abuse treatment for pregnant women and for pregnant women with children, laws that limit toxicological tests as evidence of fetal or child harm, reporting requirements for data gathering and treatment purposes and prohibitions against criminal prosecution. One policy that is punitive toward pregnant women - child abuse/neglect laws - was also associated with adverse effects.

For Black women, four policies had beneficial effects for PTB including policies supportive of women: mandatory warning signs laws and reporting requirements for data and treatment purposes. Additionally, two policies that are punitive - civil commitment laws and reporting requirements to child protective service laws - were associated with beneficial effects on PTB.

The authors conclude that the effect of alcohol/pregnancy policies on birth outcomes varies by race. Future research should explore why some policies appear to have opposite effects for White and Black women.
-end-
Source: Roberts, S., Berglas, N.F., Subbaraman, M.S., Mericle, A.A., Thomas, S., & Kerr, W.C. (2019). Racial differences in the relationship between alcohol/pregnancy policies and birth outcomes and prenatal care utilization: a legal epidemiology study. Drug & Alcohol Dependence, 201, 244-252.

PIRE is an independent, nonprofit organization merging scientific knowledge and proven practice to create solutions that improve the health, safety and well-being of individuals, communities, and nations around the world. http://www.pire.org

The Prevention Research Center (PRC) of PIRE is one of 16 centers sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), of the National Institutes of Health, and is the only one that specializes in prevention. http://www.prev.org

The Resource Link for Community Action provides information and practical guidance to state and community agencies and organizations, policy makers, and members of the public who are interested in combating alcohol and other drug abuse and misuse. https://resources.prev.org/

If you would like more information about this topic, please call Sue Thomas at 831.429.4084 or email her at thomas.pire.org

Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation

Related Preterm Birth Articles:

Researchers develop app to determine risk of preterm birth
An improved mobile phone app will help identify women who need special treatments at the right time and reduce emotional and financial burden on families and the NHS.
Point-of-care diagnostic for detecting preterm birth on horizon
A new study provides a first step toward the development of an inexpensive point-of-care diagnostic test to assess the presence of known risk factors for preterm birth in resource-poor areas.
WVU biostatistician studies link between microbiome and preterm birth
Pregnant African American women are more likely than white women to give birth prematurely, but they're underrepresented in studies of preterm birth rates.
3D-printed device detects biomarkers of preterm birth
Preterm birth (PTB) -- defined as birth before the 37th week of gestation -- is the leading complication of pregnancy.
Association of quitting smoking during pregnancy, risk of preterm birth
This study of more than 25 million pregnant women reports on rates of smoking cessation at the start of and during pregnancy and also examines the association of quitting cigarette smoking and the risk of preterm birth.
Blood test developed to predict spontaneous preterm birth
Results from a multicenter study show that five circulating microparticle proteins found in first-trimester blood samples may provide important clues about risk of spontaneous preterm birth.
Scientists gain new insight on triggers for preterm birth
A group of scientists led by Ramkumar Menon at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston have gained new insight on a poorly-understood key player in the timing of labor and delivery.
Medically assisted reproduction does not raise risk of preterm birth and low birth weight
Study shows that couples can decide about using medically assisted reproduction free from concerns about increasing the health risks to their baby.
Risk of preterm birth reliably predicted by new test
Scientists at UC San Francisco have developed a test to predict a woman's risk of preterm birth when she is between 15 and 20 weeks pregnant, which may enable doctors to treat them early and thereby prevent severe complications later in the pregnancy.
Preterm birth leaves its mark in the functional networks of the brain
Researchers at the University of Helsinki and the Helsinki University Hospital, Finland, have proven that premature birth has a significant and, at the same time, a very selective effect on the functional networks of a child's brain.
More Preterm Birth News and Preterm Birth Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.