Disparities in Maternal-Infant Drug Testing, Social Work Assessment, and Custody at 5 Hospitals

Acad Pediatr. 2023 Aug;23(6):1268-1275. doi: 10.1016/j.acap.2023.01.012. Epub 2023 Feb 7.


Objective: To evaluate for disparities in peripartum toxicology testing among maternal-infant dyads across a hospital network and subsequent child protective services (CPS) involvement.

Methods: Retrospective chart review of 59,425 deliveries at 5 hospitals in Massachusetts between 2016 and 2020. We evaluated associations between maternal characteristics, toxicology testing, and child welfare involvement with disproportionality risk ratios and hierarchical logistical regression.

Results: Toxicology testing was performed on 1959 (3.3%) dyads. Younger individuals and individuals of color were more likely to be tested for cannabis use or maternal medical complications compared to white non-Hispanic individuals. Among those without a substance use disorder, age <25 (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 2.81; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.43-3.26), race and ethnicity (non-Hispanic Black (aOR 1.80; 95% CI, 1.52-2.13), Hispanic (aOR 1.23; 95% CI, 1.05-1.45), mixed race/other (aOR 1.40; 95% CI, 1.04, 1.87), unavailable race (aOR 1.92; 95% CI, 1.32-2.79), and public insurance (Medicaid [aOR 2.61; 95% CI, 2.27-3.00], Medicare [aOR 13.76; 95% CI, 9.99-18.91]) had increased odds of toxicology testing compared to older, white non-Hispanic, and privately insured individuals. The disproportionality ratios in testing were greater than 1.0 for individuals under 25 years old (3.8), Hispanic individuals (1.6), non-Hispanic Black individuals (1.8), individuals of other race (1.2), unavailable race (1.8), and individuals with public insurance (Medicaid 2.6; Medicare 10.6). Among dyads tested, race and ethnicity was not associated with CPS involvement.

Conclusions: Peripartum toxicology testing is disproportionately performed on non-white, younger, and poorer individuals and their infants, with cannabis use and medical complications prompting testing more often for patients of color than for white non-Hispanic individuals.

Keywords: health equity; maternal-infant health; substance use.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Medicare*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Social Work*
  • United States
  • White