Drug use among women who are pregnant is a problem that most health experts would agree needs to be solved immediately. To help end this crisis, researchers looked into effective ways to prevent teenage mothers from abusing drugs while they were pregnant. They found that mothers-to-be that were visited in their home and given health education were less likely to abuse drugs while they were pregnant.
Perhaps just as important, the researchers also noted that mothers who received this sort of education had babies who reached their developmental milestones at an appropriate time, where mothers who were not getting this education had babies that missed or had a delay in the development markers. The research took place at Johns Hopkins University and focused on Native American populations. However, the researchers made sure to note that the information could be useful in low income settings across the country.
“Now the burden is in multi-generational behavioral health problem, the substance abuse, depression and domestic violence that are transferred from parents to children. This intervention can help us break that cycle of despair,” explained Allison Barlow, the lead author on the study. Researchers like Barlow hope that this information will ensure that more at-risk mothers receive the education they need in the setting that is most appropriate, which according to the study is at their own home.
In order to perform the study, researchers split 322 pregnant teenagers into two groups. One group was to receive standard care. This means that they were bussed to pre-natal visits, given pamphlets that discussed proper care of a baby and the importance of a healthy pregnancy and given referrals to other doctors as needed. The other group was given the same standard care plus over sixty home visits to educate the mothers on the correct way to care for their child as well as their own health. Prior to the study more than 84% of the mothers were engaging in drug use. The study showed that the group that was given in-home visits was far less likely to abuse drugs again.
The study also revealed that children who were not born to mothers who were abusing drugs were happier, easier to soothe and healthier. This increase in care can help prevent the same previous cycles from happening again, creating a cultural shift that continues to reduce substance abuse for future generations.