Researchers report that geography and finances played a role in the rate of amphetamine, opioid use among pregnant women.

New research points to the troubling rise of amphetamine and opioid use among pregnant mothers is on the rise, particularly in rural areas.

The research, according to Forbes, was conducted by examining 47 million US deliveries over 12 years. The results state that from 2008 to 2015, US births associated with amphetamine use doubled from 1.2 per 1,000 to 2.4 per 1,000. Of those, the majority were from methamphetamine use. Likewise, the rate of opioid use among expectant mothers also grew rapidly in a similar timeframe, quadrupling from 1.5 per 1,000 births to 6.5 per 1,000 births.

According to researchers, geography played a role. By 2014-2015, amphetamine use during pregnancy resulted in “adverse outcomes” in about 1% of deliveries (11.2 per 1,000) in the rural West. Additionally, research shed light on the fact that the greatest amount of opioid misuse during pregnancy was concentrated in the rural Northeast and led to delivery complications in 3% of women (28.7 per 1,000 deliveries).

Research also indicated that higher numbers of expectant mothers using amphetamines and opioids were from poor areas, had public insurance and were non-Hispanic white.

Lead study author Lindsay Admon of the University of Michigan’s Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital stated that in such cases, there are often barriers to the right type of care. 

“Early and adequate access to prenatal care for women with substance use has been shown to improve birth outcomes,” Admon said, according to Forbes. “However, geographic disparities have a major impact on the health and well-being of pregnant women and infants. There are significant barriers to obstetric care access in many rural communities, particularly for women with substance use.”

Researchers also discovered that in mothers using amphetamines, the risk of death and birth complications was 1.6 times that of mothers using opioids. 

Admon noted in a press release that these results were surprising.

“We know from our previous research on maternal health disparities that there are disproportionately higher rates of substance affected births in rural communities. . . . When we looked at the specific types of substances driving this disparity, we were surprised to find that amphetamine use accounted for such a significant portion,” she added. “Our findings suggest both amphetamine and opioid use are growing public health crises that affect delivery and birth outcomes.”

Admon added that it is vital that medical professionals evaluate pregnant women for substance use disorder. 

“It is critical that health providers employ universal screening for substance use early in pregnancy,” Admon stated. “Optimizing access to prenatal care is a crucial mechanism to connect women with the services they need for their health and their baby’s health.”

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