Program Improves Outcomes in Pregnant Substance Abusers

June 27, 2008

Perinatal outcomes are significantly better when women with substance abuse problems receive treatment integrated with prenatal visits, according to research published online June 26 in the Journal of Perinatology.

FRIDAY, June 27 (HealthDay News) -- Perinatal outcomes are significantly better when women with substance abuse problems receive treatment integrated with prenatal visits, according to research published online June 26 in the Journal of Perinatology.

Nancy Goler, M.D., of the Permanente Medical Group, Northern California Region in Vallejo, Calif., and colleagues compared outcomes in 49,985 women, including 2,073 who screened positive for substance abuse and received treatment through the Early Start program, 1,203 who screened positive for substance abuse and did not receive treatment, 156 who screened positive only, and 46,553 controls who screened negative.

The researchers found that women who received Early Start treatment had either similar or slightly higher rates of pregnancy complications compared to controls but lower rates compared to women who screened positive and did not receive treatment and women who screened positive only. Compared to women who received Early Start treatment, their analysis showed that women who screened positive only had significantly increased risks of preterm delivery, placental abruption, and intrauterine fetal death (odds ratios, 2.1, 6.8, and 16.2, respectively).

"The women and babies served by Early Start are healthier; therefore, the impact of the program reaches beyond them to also positively influence the health and well-being of the community at large, and consequently must also be considered from a public health perspective," the authors conclude. "The results of this study reflect the importance of widespread implementation of this model of care as a national standard."

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