Emory University Discovers Unexpectedly High Rate of Maternal Substance Abuse in United States

A new study from Emory University in Atlanta has identified a new way to measure the impact of substance use disorders on maternal mortality. Historically, research on this topic has only measured maternal substance abuse using data from delivery visits. The research team from Emory University builds on this method and includes data from the full nine months of pregnancy and the first 12 months postpartum.

For their study, the research team examined data from 330,972 people who had given birth in a hospital across the state of New York between September 2016 and January 2018. Instead of only reviewing substance use disorder diagnoses issued at the time of delivery, the authors also examined if any of the study’s participants received a diagnosis during all nine months of pregnancy and one year postpartum. The results found the frequency of substance use disorder diagnoses among pregnant people across the full 21 months of pregnancy and postpartum is roughly 2,671 per 100,000 patients. Diagnoses at the time of delivery accounted for 1,866 per 100,000 people, meaning delivery-only measurement methods miss about 31 percent of diagnoses across the pregnancy and postpartum period.

The study’s authors also found that the rate of maternal substance use disorders steadily increased through all stages of pregnancy, with a significant increase in postpartum diagnoses compared to first-trimester diagnoses. Additionally, these diagnoses were found to be significantly more prevalent among Black and Native American women, rural and suburban residents, and Medicare patients.

As drug overdoses across the United States become increasingly widespread, the researchers believe their findings can provide other scholars with a more accurate method of studying the relationship between substance abuse and maternal mortality.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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