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Impact of policies targeting alcohol use during pregnancy varies by race

Almost every state has a law targeting alcohol use during pregnancy, yet limited research has analyzed the impact of these laws. Some research has found that these policies do not have the intended impacts of reducing alcohol use or improving health outcomes, sometimes leading to increased negative birth outcomes and decreased prenatal care use. This study investigated if the benefits and harms of these policies on birth outcomes differ by race.

The data from this study come from Vital Statistics, the Alcohol Policy Information System, and original legal research. We found that the impact of these policies do vary by race for preterm birth and low birth weight, but not for prenatal care utilization.

Most policies had an adverse impact on preterm birth and/or low birth weight birth for White women. Some policies had a beneficial impact for preterm birth for Black women, and one had an adverse impact for low birth weight. Harms appear more present for white women and benefits appear more present for Black women.

More research is needed to understand the reasons for these differential effects.

Read more about the study, "Racial differences in the relationship between alcohol/pregnancy policies and birth outcomes and prenatal care utilization: A legal epidemiology study," in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

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