Physical abuse, smoking, and substance use during pregnancy: prevalence, interrelationships, and effects on birth weight

J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 1996 May;25(4):313-20. doi: 10.1111/j.1552-6909.1996.tb02577.x.

Abstract

Objective: To establish the singular and combined occurrence of physical abuse, smoking, and substance use (i.e., alcohol and illicit drugs) during pregnancy and its effect on birth weight.

Design: Prospective cohort analysis.

Setting: Urban public prenatal clinics.

Participants: 414 African American, 412 Hispanic, and 377 white pregnant women.

Main outcome measure(s): Occurrence of physical abuse was 16%; smoking, 29.5%; and alcohol/illicit drug use, 11.9%. Significant relationships existed between physical abuse and smoking for African American and white women. For African American women, 33.7% of women who were not abused smoked, versus 49.5% of women who were abused (chi 2 = 8.21; df = 1; p < 0.005). Alcohol/illicit drug use was 20.8% for nonabused women compared with 42.1% for abused women (chi 2 = 18.18; df = 1; p < 0.001). For white women, 46.6% of women who were not abused smoked, versus 59.6% of those who were abused (chi 2 = 5.22; df = 1; p < 0.005). As a triad, physical abuse, smoking, and alcohol/ illicit drug use were significantly related to birth weight (F[3, 1040] = 30.19, p < 0.001).

Conclusions: Physical abuse during pregnancy is common, readily detected with a five-question screen, and associated with significantly higher use of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs. Clinical protocols that integrate assessment and intervention for physical abuse, smoking, and substance use are essential for preventing further abuse and improving smoking and substance cessation rates.

PIP: Using a prospective cohort analysis, this study established the singular and combined occurrence of smoking, physical abuse, and substance use during pregnancy and its effect on birth weight among African American, Hispanic, and White women. The sample consisted of 1203 African American (n = 414), Hispanic (n = 412), and White (n = 377) pregnant women from urban public prenatal clinics in Houston and Baltimore. In the results, occurrence of physical abuse was 16%; smoking, 29.5%; and alcohol/illicit drug usage, 11.9%. Among African American and White women, significant relationships existed between physical abuse and smoking. About 33.7% of African American women, who were not abused, smoked compared with 49.5% of women who were abused. Alcohol/illicit drug use was 20.8% for nonabused women compared with 42.1% for abused women. Moreover, the three characteristics--physical abuse, smoking, and alcohol/illicit drug use--were significantly related to birth weight. The results indicate that abuse during pregnancy is associated with increased smoking, and use of alcohol and illicit drugs. Thus, clinical protocols integrating assessment and intervention for physical abuse, smoking, and substance use are needed to achieve healthy outcomes for pregnant women and their infants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • African Continental Ancestry Group
  • Baltimore
  • Birth Weight* / drug effects
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Female
  • Hispanic Americans
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Nursing Care / methods
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / ethnology*
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Smoking / ethnology*
  • Spouse Abuse / ethnology*
  • Spouse Abuse / statistics & numerical data
  • Substance-Related Disorders / ethnology*
  • Texas