Despite extensive health campaigns, a number of women continue to use substances such as tobacco, marijuana and alcohol during pregnancy. They tend to revive their usage to pre-pregnancy levels within two years of having a baby, says a new study, which blames dads for it.
According to the study's lead authors Jennifer Bailey and Karl Hill, who are affiliated with the Social Development Research Group in the University of Washington's School of Social Work, men's level of binge drinking and substance abuse remains stable before, during and after pregnancy, making it harder for mums to stop smoking or drinking.
"The months after childbirth are critical for intervening with mothers," said Bailey, who is a UW research scientist.
"For example, many already have done the hard work of quitting smoking and haven't smoked a cigarette in six months or more. We should support that effort so that they can continue as nonsmokers. However, we know if dad is smoking or drinking it is more likely that mom will resume smoking or drinking," Bailey added.
The research is the first comprehensive look at mothers' and fathers' substance use on a month-by-month basis during a three-year period that included pregnancy.
The data for the study came from the Seattle Social Development Project which is following the development of 808 Seattle children who are now young adults.
The participants are interviewed every three years, and for this study data covered the period when they were 21 to 24 years of age. In interviews, they were asked about their month-by-month incidences of binge drinking (5 or more alcoholic drinks in a two-hour period) and their use of cigarettes and marijuana.
They were also asked a number of questions about life events, including the birth of a child. One hundred and thirty-one women and 77 men reported the birth of 244 children during this period.
The study found that 77 percent of women cigarette smokers and 50 percent of the women who smoked marijuana used those substances at some time during pregnancy.
38 percent of women cigarette smokers and 24 percent of marijuana users reported using those substances throughout their pregnancies.
While overall rates of cigarette and marijuana use and binge drinking for women declined during pregnancy, those rates began rising again during the first six months following the birth of a baby.
Month by month during pregnancy, rates of smoking among all pregnant women varied between 17 percent and 21 percent, binge drinking was between 2 percent and 3 percent and marijuana use was between 8 percent and 9 percent.
The researchers said that the findings emphasize the need for more public health messages and preventive interventions.
The study is published in the journal Birth Issues in Perinatal Care.