Reducing Postpartum Drug Use

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photo of newborn being cuddled by mother

In a recent clinical trial, a 20- minute computerized intervention reduced new mothers' drug abuse in the first 4 months postpartum. The computer software program, which was developed by Dr. Steven J. Ondersma and colleagues at Wayne State University in Detroit and Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, was administered in an urban obstetric hospital soon after each woman gave birth. The program features an animated narrator who asks questions, addresses ambivalence, provides feedback, and offers options. The intervention also included vouchers for an initial session of drug treatment and an easy-to-read brochure, mailed to the women after they took their babies home, that discussed infant and maternal health and briefly addressed drug abuse. The researchers estimated that the intervention had a "small to moderate" beneficial effect in their study population—107 mostly poor women who abused drugs. At a 4-month followup, those who received the intervention reported using cocaine, amphetamines, and opiates less frequently than before the birth, while the comparison group reported slightly increased abuse of these drugs. No definitive differences were observed between the two groups regarding marijuana use.

American Journal of Preventive Medicine 32(3):231-238, 2007. [Abstract]