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Patterns of Methamphetamine Use During Pregnancy: Results from the Infant Development, Environment, and Lifestyle (IDEAL) Study


The objectives of this study are to characterize methamphetamine (MA) usage patterns during pregnancy, examine whether patterns of MA use are associated with sociodemographic characteristics and prenatal care, and test the hypothesis that persistent or increasing MA use during pregnancy is associated with greater use of other illicit drugs. The sample consisted of 191 MA-using mothers who participated in a large-scale multi-site study of prenatal MA exposure. Patterns of substance use were assessed by maternal self-report via the Substance Use Inventory (SUI), which included detailed information about MA use, including frequency, quantity, and maximum use during each trimester of pregnancy. The study demostrated that on average, the prevalence of MA use decreased over the three trimesters of pregnancy (84.3% vs. 56.0% vs. 42.4%), and decreased frequency was observed among users from the first trimester to the third (3.1 vs. 2.4 vs. 1.5 days/week). Closer examination of the individual patterns revealed that 29.3% of women maintained consistently high frequency, 9.4% increased frequency, 25.7% had a stable low/moderate pattern, and 35.6% decreased their frequency of MA over the course of pregnancy. These four groups did not differ in sociodemographic characteristics; women who decreased their use of MA had significantly more prenatal visits compared to the consistently high-use group, but were the most likely to use alcohol during their pregnancy. In conclusion, this article elucidated the different patterns of MA use in this community sample. Approximately, one third of MA-using mothers could be classified as consistently high users with a profile of use with the greatest risk to themselves and potentially to their infants including high levels of MA use throughout pregnancy and fewer prenatal care visits. Overall, we found that MA use declined across pregnancy; however, a substantial proportion of users had consistently high or increasing MA use, while those who decreased their MA frequency had a higher prevalence of polydrug use. Future research will investigate the association of these patterns with neonatal outcomes.

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