Smoke, alcohol consumption and illicit drug use in an Italian population of pregnant women

Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2011 Nov;159(1):106-10. doi: 10.1016/j.ejogrb.2011.07.042. Epub 2011 Aug 9.


Objective: High-risk behaviours are associated with an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes. Exposure to drugs, infection or radiation is a cause of concern for pregnant women, who contact Teratology Information Services (TIS) to have a counseling but with an accurate medical history is possible to detect additional behavioural risk factors that can significantly interfere with pregnancy outcome. The aim of this study is to describe risk behaviours in a population of Italian women calling our TIS and to identify related maternal factors.

Study design: Between December 2008 and January 2010 we collected data from 503 pregnant women calling our TIS (Telefono Rosso, Rome). We investigated about smoke, alcohol and abuse substances addiction and we also collected demographic data.

Results: Of the 503 women consenting to participate 34% were found to have an additional risk marker during the current pregnancy. Within this group were 22.7% (n=119) who reported smoking, the 17.7% (n=89) admitted to drink and 2 women (0.4%) used illicit drugs. In 13.7% of cases (n=69) reason for calling represented an exposure to teratogenic agents. Unmarried status and previous induced abortion represent a risk factor for all high-risk behaviours. Lower education (p<0.001) and use of neurological drugs (p<0.001) are related with cigarette consumption. A lower parity was a risk factor for alcohol assumption (p=0.04). Women with high-risk behaviours tend to be exposed to more than a risk factor.

Conclusions: Teratogen Information Services are an important system to identify women with pregnancy risk markers. These services should have the ability to provide risk reduction information to women who smoke cigarettes or with alcohol or drug use. In addition to the phone based information these women may benefit from referral back to their physician for assessment and management of substance use/abuse during pregnancy. Substance abuse risks are often underestimated by pregnant women. Single mothers or women with an history of terminations of pregnancy represents an high-risk population. Physicians should inform their patients about possible risks related to high-risk behaviours during preconception counseling or during the first obstetric visit.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced / psychology
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology
  • Consumer Health Information
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs / toxicity*
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Parity
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Poison Control Centers
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy Complications / psychology
  • Prevalence
  • Single Person / psychology
  • Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Smoking / psychology
  • Substance Abuse Detection / methods
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Teratogens / toxicity
  • Young Adult


  • Illicit Drugs
  • Teratogens