Counseling Impact

By: Lindsey Ward Email
By: Lindsey Ward Email

January 6, 2007

Many women, who become pregnant, sometimes do not find out right away and continue their daily habits. According to researchers, unfortunately, one of those habits is drinking.

“Most women don't recognize their pregnancy until about seven weeks, so there could be a time period where she's drinking and not realizing she’s pregnant and doing dramatic damage to the fetus,” said Karen Ingersoll, a University of Virginia Associate Professor of Psychiatry.

Ingersoll and her colleagues began a study to find out what might change the habits of women who could become pregnant and prevent alcohol exposed pregnancies.

They decided to use a fairly new counseling technique called Motivational Interviewing and found it prompted women to scale back risky drinking and use more effective contraception.

“We're not just persuading somebody, we're not trying to tell them their doing something wrong and here's what you should do. We're raising their awareness that they are at risk and usually this was a surprise to the women in our study, they didn't realize that they could become pregnant and they didn't realize that they were drinking at a level that could potentially cause harm,” Ingersoll said.

The women studied were from three areas of the country where their behavior put them at a higher risk than the rest of the nation. One area is right down the road from Charlottesville, in Richmond, the other two in Florida and Texas.

All of the research was published in the American Journal of the Preventive Medicine and Ingersoll has won a grant to further study how the motivational interviewing used in the study works.

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