Aims: A special child welfare clinic (SCWC) in Norway provides care for pregnant women with substance abuse problems to prevent the adverse effects of substances. The SCWC aims to give treatment without replacements. This article describes neonatal findings among children of substance-abusing women at the clinic.
Methods: This was a retrospective cohort study including 62 children whose mothers had attended the SCWC during pregnancy. A comparison group with children of women with no substance abuse was included. Data were collected from medical records and by means of a questionnaire concerning neonatal data, health, and living conditions. SCWC mothers were divided into short-term users (substance use stopped within first trimester) and long-term users (continued moderate substance use throughout pregnancy).
Results: Average birthweight and head circumference were significantly lower in the substance-abusing groups: 3084 g and 34.0 cm in the short-term group, 3048 g and 33.9 cm in the long-term group, and 3496 g and 34.8 cm in the comparison group. There was no difference in Apgar score. Substance abuse and psychiatric illness were associated with low birthweight. Long-term users were more likely than comparisons to experience premature birth and have low-birthweight children. This difference was not found among short-term users. We found no difference in Caesarean sections and vacuum extractions.
Conclusions: Substance abusers who stop their drug use early in pregnancy tend to have birth outcomes that are similar to those of mothers with no substance abuse. The study indicates that attendance at a voluntary, low-threshold initiative for pregnant substance abusers, with a focus on prenatal care and substance abuse treatment without replacements, may reduce the harmful effect of the abuse on the newborn.