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10. WOMEN OF CHILDBEARING AGE

It is important to focus on women of childbearing age (age 15-44 in this report) because their substance abuse could affect the children they care for or give birth to. Because the NHSDA includes questions about pregnancy, it is possible to study substance use among pregnant women. To allow more detailed analyses to be done, data from the 1994 and 1995 NHSDAs were combined, providing a sample of 761 pregnant and 14,233 nonpregnant women age 15-44.

Reporting of pregnancy by NHSDA respondents appears reasonably accurate, producing an estimate of about 2.7 million pregnant women per year. This is close to the number of pregnant women on a given day that would be expected based on counts of live births from the birth registration system, and estimates of induced abortions and fetal loss rates (Ventura, Taffel, Mosher, et al 1995).

Overall, 7.3 percent (4.3 million) of women age 15-44 in 1995 had used an illicit drug in the past month. The corresponding rate for men age 15-44 was 11.6 percent.

Of the 4.3 million women age 15-44 who were current illicit drug users, more than 1.6 million had children living with them. About 400,000 had at least one child under 2 years of age.

Among women age 15-44 with no children who were not pregnant, 9.3 percent were current illicit drug users. Only 2.3 percent of pregnant women were current drug users, which suggests that most women may reduce their drug use when they become pregnant. However, women who recently gave birth (have a child under 2 years old, and not pregnant) have a rate of use of 5.5 percent, suggesting that many women resume their drug use after giving birth. Similar patterns are seen for alcohol and cigarette use (Figure 11).

Among pregnant women, rates of illicit drug use and cigarette use were highest among women in the first trimester and lowest among women in the third trimester (Figure 12).

Among pregnant women, rates of substance use generally varied as they do among nonpregnant women (Figure 12). Rates were higher among women 15-25 than among those 26-44, and they were higher among unmarried women than among married women. One exception to this pattern was evident in smoking rates by age. Nonpregnant women age 15-25 and age 26-44 had about the same rates of smoking. However, among pregnant women, those age 26-44 had a significantly lower past month smoking rate than those age 15-25, suggesting that older women smokers are more likely to reduce their smoking during pregnancy than are younger women smokers.

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