Research: Prevalence of alcohol use in pregnant women with substance use disorder



A clinic-based study (n = 660) examines prevalence of alcohol use in early pregnancy.

Prevalence was similar in the general obstetrics (OB; 24.5%) and substance use disorder (SUD; 24.1%) populations.

Intensity of alcohol use (binge episodes, drinks/week) was higher in SUD group.

Prenatal programs for women with SUD should screen for alcohol consumption.



Prenatal care programs for women with opioid use disorder (OUD) often focus treatment/counseling plans around illicit substances, while concurrent use of alcohol might present an equal or greater risk to the fetus.


This study evaluated self-reported prevalence of alcohol use in patients participating in a comprehensive prenatal care program for women with substance use disorder (SUD; n = 295), of which 95% are treated for OUD, and pregnant women being served through general obstetrical clinics at the University of New Mexico (n = 365). During the screening phase of a prospective study, patients were asked to report alcohol use in the periconceptional period, and between the last menstrual period and pregnancy recognition.


The screening interview was conducted at 22.3 (median = 22; Q1 = 16; Q3 = 29) gestational weeks. Among patients screened at the SUD clinic, 28.8% and 24.1% reported at least one binge drinking episode in the periconceptional period and in early pregnancy, respectively. The prevalence of binge drinking was similar in the general obstetrics population (24.7% and 24.4%, respectively). Among those who reported drinking in early pregnancy, median number of binge drinking episodes was higher among patients screened at the SUD clinic (median = 3; Q1 = 1; Q3 = 10) compared to the general obstetrics group (median = 1; Q1 = 1; Q3 = 3; p < 0.001).


This study demonstrates a high prevalence of prenatal alcohol use in early pregnancy in both groups, while patients with SUD/OUD consume more alcohol. These findings underscore the need for targeted screening and intervention for alcohol use in all pregnant women, especially those with SUD/OUD.

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