Predictors of alcohol and other drug use among pregnant women in a peri-urban South African setting

Journal Article


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International Journal of Mental Health Systems

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BioMed Central


University of Cape Town

Background: Alcohol and other drugs (AOD) use among pregnant women have been associated with adverse health outcomes for mother and child, during and after pregnancy. Factors associated with AOD use among women include age, poverty, unemployment, and interpersonal conflict. Few studies have looked at demographic, economic, and psychosocial factors as predictors of AOD use among pregnant women in low-income, peri-urban settings. The study aimed to determine the association between these risk factors and alcohol and drug use among pregnant women in Hanover Park, Cape Town. Methods: The study was undertaken at a Midwife Obstetric Unit providing primary-level maternity services in a resource-scarce area of South Africa. 376 adult women attending the unit were recruited and a multi-tool questionnaire administered. Demographic, socioeconomic and life events data were collected. The Expanded Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview Version 5.0.0 was used to assess alcohol abuse and other drugs use, depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. Descriptive and bivariate analyses were conducted to examine the associations between predictor variables. Non-parametric tests, Wilcoxon sum of rank test, Fisher Exact and two sample T test and multicollinearity tests were performed. Logistic regression was conducted to identify associations between the outcome of interest and key predictors. A probability value of p ≤ 0.05 was selected. Results: Of the total number of pregnant women sampled, 18 % reported current AOD use. Of these, 18 % were currently experiencing a major depressive episode, 19 % had a current anxiety diagnosis, and 22 % expressed suicidal ideation. Depression, anxiety, suicidality, food insecurity, interpersonal violence, relationship dynamics, and past mental health problems were predictors of AOD use. Conclusions: This study has confirmed the vulnerability of pregnant women in low-income, peri-urban settings to alcohol abuse and other drugs use. Further, the association between diagnosed depression and anxiety, suicidality, and AOD use among these women may reflect how complex environmental factors support the coexistence of multiple mental health problems. These problems place mothers and their infants at high risk for poor health and development outcomes. The results have implications for planning appropriate interventions.