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Findings of a Pilot Study of Motivational Interviewing with Pregnant Drinkers

Nancy Sheehy Handmaker, William R. Miller, Megan Manicke

Objective: Cost-effective interventions are needed for counseling pregnant drinkers, in order to reduce risk of fetal alcohol effects. Method: 42 pregnant women who reported alcohol consumption participated in this pilot study of motivational interviewing. Following a comprehensive alcohol use assessment, the participants were randomly assigned to receive either written information about the risks related to drinking during pregnancy or a one-hour motivational interview. The motivational interview was an empathic, client-centered, but directive session focusing on the health of the participants' unborn babies. Results: At the end of a 2-month follow-up period, the 34 women (81%) who remained in the study showed a significant reduction in alcohol consumption and peak intoxication levels. Women who had reported the highest blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels during early pregnancy showed a significantly greater reduction in their estimated BACs at follow-up (during later pregnancy) if assigned to the treatment rather than the control condition. Conclusions: Motivational interviewing shows promise as a specific intervention for initiating a reduction in drinking among pregnant women who are at greatest risk. Simpler assessment and advice may suffice for women with lower initial consumption levels. (J. Stud. Alcohol 60: 285-287, 1999)