Page last updated: Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Targetted interventions for 'at risk' may cut risk of drinking in pregnancy
Women who drink often and fail to use reliable birth control are at high risk of drinking during pregnancy. A new study suggests that just a few counselling sessions can reduce those odds.

Researchers found that five brief counseling sessions helped high-risk women to both reduce their drinking and start using effective birth control.

At 9-month follow-up, they were twice as likely as women who did not receive counseling to cut out “risky drinking,” start using a reliable form of contraception, or do both.

“What we were able to do was to help the women become aware that they were at risk, and subsequently they made decisions to change their risk behaviour,” R. Louise Floyd, a researcher with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a statement.

The 830 women in the current study did not use reliable birth control and they either drank often -- at least eight drinks per week -- or reported binge-drinking, which was defined as five or more drinks in a day.

More than half of the women met the clinical criteria for alcohol dependence, more than 90% used illicit drugs and more than 70% smoked. The average age of the women was 30 years old, almost half were African American and 51% had never been married. 55% had annual incomes of less than $20,000.

Half of the women were randomly assigned to attend four counselling sessions on drinking and pregnancy and one on birth control options. The rest received educational brochures on drinking and women’s health. Of the 830 women who began the study, 593 (71%) completed the final interview after 9 months.

Women in the counselling group substantially cut their binge-drinking, Floyd’s team reports. In addition, 56% were using effective birth control, versus 39% of women in the comparison group.

Source: American Journal of Preventive Medicine, January 2007

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