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J Adolesc Health. 1996 Nov;19(5):337-44.

Drug use among adolescent mothers: prepregnancy to 18 months postpartum.

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School of Social Work, University of Washington, Seattle, 98105-6299, USA.



Little is known about the substance use patterns of adolescent mothers, particularly in the postpartum period. This study provides descriptive, longitudinal data on the substance use behavior of a cohort of adolescent mothers.


A total of 241 pregnant adolescents, under 18 years old and planning to carry the pregnancy to term, completed the initial interview. Respondents were interviewed again at 1, 6, 12, and 18 months postpartum. The data reported here are based on the 229 respondents who completed all five interviews.


Use of all substances decreased substantially during pregnancy, but increased steadily in the first 6 months postpartum. A similar pattern was observed for regular use of multiple substances. Regular use before and after the pregnancy, but not during it, was the most common pattern of substance use.


The prevalence of substance use among adolescent mothers is significant. To capitalize on the large decreases in use during pregnancy, drug prevention programs for adolescent mothers should target the first 6 months postpartum.


To characterize patterns of legal and illicit drug use among pregnant and parenting adolescents, 241 unmarried US teens 17 years of age and younger were recruited from an urban, publicly funded prenatal clinic for a prospective study. Respondents were interviewed during pregnancy and at 1, 6, 12, and 18 months postpartum. 229 (95%) of these adolescents completed all five interviews. A substantial reduction in regular use of tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, and crack/cocaine occurred during pregnancy (e.g., 55% of respondents reported regular alcohol consumption before pregnancy, but only 4% admitted regular use during pregnancy); however, a steady increase in drug use occurred after delivery, especially in the first 6 months postpartum. 38.6% of respondents discontinued drug use during pregnancy, but resumed it in the postpartum period. Another 20.6% reported no use before, during, or after pregnancy. 16.7% initiated drug use in the postpartum period, while 14.5% were continuous users. These findings suggest a need for drug prevention interventions in the first few postpartum months aimed at capitalizing on young mothers' voluntary reductions in drug use during pregnancy. Such interventions could emphasize the findings that secondary cigarette smoke inhaled by children can increase their respiratory problems and alcohol passes to infants through breast milk. ¿.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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