A recent article in Women’s Health Issues describes the findings of a study exploring women’s experiences with universal screening for alcohol and drugs during pregnancy in northern California.

The researchers conducted 20 interviews and 2 focus groups with women who were pregnant or parenting and using alcohol and/or drugs. The women came from a range of ethnic backgrounds and most described themselves as low-income.

The study demonstrated that women’s concerns about having their substance use identified by health care providers influenced their decisions about attending prenatal care. In many circumstances, fears about judgement and an expectation that providers would not “be on their side” delayed their entry to care. Some reported positive experiences with providers who demonstrated “understanding” by crediting them for their progress in reducing their alcohol and drug use rather than expecting immediate cessation.

The researchers suggest that health care providers would benefit from training on non-judgemental responses and clear policies and communication about the confidentiality of alcohol and drug use information obtained during prenatal visits.


Robert, SCM and Nuru-Jeter, A. (2010). Women’s Perspectives on Screening for Alcohol and Drug Use in Prenatal Care. Women’s Health Issues, 20: 193-200.