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Obstet Gynecol. 2003 Feb;101(2):374-9.

Pregnancy-related substance use in the United States during 1996-1998.

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia 30333, USA.



To provide a baseline estimate of the national prevalence of pregnancy-related illicit drug use and abstinence rates.


We analyzed data collected between 1996 and 1998 from the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, a nationally representative sample survey of 22,303 noninstitutionalized women aged 18-44 years, of whom 1,249 were pregnant.


During 1996-1998, 6.4% of nonpregnant women of childbearing age and 2.8% of pregnant women reported that they used illicit drugs. Of the women who used drugs, the relative proportion of women who abstained from illicit drugs after recognition of pregnancy increased from 28% during the first trimester of pregnancy to 93% by the third trimester. However, because of postpregnancy relapse, the net pregnancy-related reduction in illicit drug use at postpartum was only 24%. Marijuana accounted for three-fourths of illicit drug use, and cocaine accounted for one-tenth of illicit drug use. Of those who used illicit drugs, over half of pregnant and two-thirds of nonpregnant women also used cigarettes and alcohol. Among the sociodemographic subgroups, pregnant and nonpregnant women who were young (18-30 years) or unmarried, and pregnant women with less than high school education had the highest rates of illicit drug use.


The continued burden of illicit drug use during pregnancy calls for policy efforts to enable primary care providers to identify and refer women who use substances to treatment and support services. Prevention of uptake of illicit drug use should be an integral part of public health programs for young women.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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