Pregnant women who receive treatment for substance abuse early in their pregnancy can achieve the same health outcomes as compared to pregnant women with no substance abuse, a new study has suggested.
The study examined 49,985 women in Kaiser Permanente's prenatal care program and found that integrating substance abuse screening and treatment into routine prenatal care helped pregnant women achieve similar health outcomes as women who were not using cigarettes, alcohol or other drugs.
"This program can happen everywhere and should become the gold standard for women who are pregnant and using cigarettes, alcohol or other drugs," said study lead author Nancy C. Goler, M.D., an OB/GYN and Kaiser Permanente regional medical director of the Early Start Program for the organization's Northern California operations.
"The study's big finding was that study participants treated in the Early Start program had outcomes similar to our control group, women who had no evidence of substance abuse," she added.
For the study, Goler and colleagues compared 2,073 pregnant women who were screened, assessed and received ongoing intervention during pregnancy through the Early Start program at 21 Kaiser Permanente Northern California outpatient obstetric clinics from 1999 to 2003 to women in three other groups.
The other groups included 156 women who were screened but did not accept assessment or treatment; 1,203 women were screened, assessed and received brief intervention only; and a control group of 46,553 women who showed no evidence of substance abuse.
Researchers found the risk of stillborn, placental abruption, pre-term delivery, low birth weight and neonatal ventilation were dramatically higher for the 156 untreated substance abusers than the 2,073 women in the Early Start program.
They also found that the women who went through the Early Start program had the same statistical risks of stillborn, preterm delivery, placental abruption as the control group of women who did not use any cigarettes, alcohol or drugs during their pregnancy.
"The key message here to women who are currently smoking, drinking or using other drugs, or who recently tried to stop, is that it is not too late to seek help when you find out you are pregnant," Dr. Goler said.
"The sooner women ask for help, the better the health outcomes will be for themselves, and their babies. My message to all pregnant women, as well as women who are trying to conceive, is to stop all alcohol, cigarette and drug use," she added.
The study is published online in the Journal of Perinatology.