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Data shows pregnancy-specific alcohol policies do not decrease infant or maternal harm

For over 40 years, almost all states have enacted policies addressing alcohol use during pregnancy, becoming increasingly punitive. ANSIRH researchers sought to examine the associations of these pregnancy-specific alcohol policies with infant and maternal health outcomes.

The adverse outcomes of pregnant people’s alcohol consumption remain a public health concern in the U.S. After examining associations of pregnancy-specific alcohol policies with infant injuries and morbidities and maternal morbidities, the researchers found that these policies were not associated with improved health outcomes.

Key Findings

Most pregnancy-specific policies were not associated with decreased infant injuries or morbidities or maternal morbidities.
Some policies were associated with increased odds of at least 1 adverse infant or maternal outcome.
The frequency of infant injuries and morbidities and severe maternal morbidities shows that infants and birthing people face health burdens, and these policies do not appear to reduce these burdens.

Study Design

The researchers used policy data from the Alcohol Policy Information System and outcome data from a national database of private insurance claims and the study cohort included individuals aged 25 to 50 years who gave birth between 2006 and 2019 in the U.S.


These findings are consistent with a larger body of literature examining pregnancy-specific drug policies, which also found few improved infant health outcomes associated with pregnancy-specific drug policies.

The researchers wrote:

“Policy makers should not assume that pregnancy-specific alcohol policies improve infant or maternal health. Policy approaches more likely to improve infant and maternal health are urgently needed.”

The article, Association of Pregnancy-Specific Alcohol Policies with Infant Morbidities and Maltreatment, is available in JAMA Network Open.

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