Miscarriage and Abortion Among Women Attending Harm Reduction Services in Philadelphia: Correlations With Individual, Interpersonal, and Structural Factors

Subst Use Misuse. 2022;57(6):999-1006. doi: 10.1080/10826084.2022.2046100. Epub 2022 Mar 11.


Background: Reproductive health research among women who use drugs has focused on pregnancy prevention and perinatal/neonatal outcomes, but there have been few investigations of miscarriage and abortion, including prevalence and associated factors. Methods: Using cross-sectional data from a sample of non-pregnant women receiving harm reduction services in Philadelphia in 2016-2017 we examined lifetime miscarriage and abortion (n = 187). Separately for both outcomes, we used modified Poisson regression to estimate prevalence ratios (PR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for associations with each correlate. We also explored correlates of reporting both miscarriage and abortion. Results: Approximately 47% experienced miscarriage, 42% experienced abortion, and 18% experienced both. Miscarriage correlates included: prescription opioid misuse (e.g., OxyContin PR 1.82, 95% CI 1.23, 2.69); 40% increase in prevalence associated with housing instability, 50% increase with survival sex, and two-fold increase with arrest. Abortion correlates included: mental health (e.g., depression PR 2.09, 95% CI 1.18, 3.71), stimulant use (e.g., methamphetamine PR 1.83, 95% CI 1.22, 2.74), and drug injection (PR 1.76, 95% CI 1.03, 3.02); partner controlling access to people/possessions, physical and emotional violence; and a two-fold increase associated with survival sex and arrest. Experiencing both reproductive outcomes was correlated with mental health, opioid and simulant use, housing instability, survival sex, and arrest. Conclusion: Miscarriage and abortion was common among women with history of drug misuse suggesting a need for expanded access to family planning, medication-assisted therapy, and social support services, and for the integration of these with substance use services. Future research in longitudinal data is needed.

Keywords: Reproductive health; abortion; drug use; miscarriage; women.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced*
  • Abortion, Spontaneous* / epidemiology
  • Abortion, Spontaneous* / psychology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Harm Reduction
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Philadelphia / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy