State Policies Targeting Alcohol Use during Pregnancy and Alcohol Use among Pregnant Women 1985-2016: Evidence from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System

Womens Health Issues. May-Jun 2019;29(3):213-221. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2019.02.001. Epub 2019 Mar 12.


Background: Most states have at least one policy targeting alcohol use during pregnancy. The public health impact of these policies has not been examined. We sought to examine the relationship between state-level policies targeting alcohol use during pregnancy and alcohol use among pregnant women.

Methods: Data include state-level alcohol and pregnancy policy data and individual-level U.S. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data about pregnant women's alcohol use from 1985 to 2016 (N = 57,194). Supportive policies include mandatory warning signs, priority substance abuse treatment, reporting requirements for data and treatment purposes, and prohibitions on criminal prosecution. Punitive policies include civil commitment, Child Protective Services reporting requirements, and child abuse/neglect. Analyses include logistic regression models that adjust for individual- and state-level controls, include fixed effects for state and year, account for clustering by state, and weight by probability of selection.

Results: Relative to having no policies, supportive policy environments were associated with more any drinking, but not binge or heavy drinking. Of individual supportive policies, only the following relationships were statistically significant: mandatory warning signs was associated with lower odds of binge drinking, and priority treatment for pregnant women and women with children was associated with higher odds of any drinking. Relative to no policies, punitive policy environments were also associated with more drinking, but not with binge or heavy drinking. Of individual punitive policies, only child abuse/neglect was associated with lower odds of binge and heavy drinking. Mixed policy environments were not associated with any alcohol outcome.

Conclusions: Most policies targeting alcohol use during pregnancy do not seem to be associated with less alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Alcohol Drinking / prevention & control*
  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
  • Female
  • Forecasting
  • Health Policy / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Health Policy / trends*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnant Women / psychology*
  • State Government
  • Substance-Related Disorders / prevention & control*
  • United States
  • Women's Rights / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Young Adult