State-level policies designed to discourage or criminalize alcohol use during pregnancy do not improve infant health, according to new research.
In some cases, these policies can be harmful, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco found. “Unfortunately, these pregnancy-specific alcohol policies — all of the ones we look at — none of them seem to do anything consistently good for babies,” said study author Sarah Roberts.
The study found warning signs about drinking during pregnancy, such as those found in bars or restaurants did not decrease birth defects. Nor did policies that require health care providers to report pregnant people using alcohol to child welfare agencies, Axios reports.
These policies instead led to an increase in infant injuries, the researchers found. Roberts said this may be in part due to the fear of being reported to child welfare agencies by health care providers, which is likely a barrier to pregnant people seeking treatment for alcohol use disorder.
Policies such as mandatory treatment referrals had no impact or positive effect on infant injury or illnesses, the study found. “Singling out pregnant people for policies related to alcohol and drugs is not helping babies be healthier or safer, and in fact, it seems to be making it worse,” Roberts said.