Short-term health outcomes of newborn infants of substance-using mothers in Australia and New Zealand: A systematic review Academic Article uri icon


  • AIM:Substance use is not unusual among women of childbearing age. Pregnant women who use a substance and the consequent impacts on a newborn vary across studies and settings. We reviewed New Zealand and Australian literature to examine the short-term health outcomes of newborn of substance-using mothers and their demographic characteristics. METHODS:Five medical/nursing databases and google scholar were searched in April 2017. Studies were considered eligible if they described outcomes of newborn of substance-using mothers. Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool was used for quality assessment of candidate studies. Relevant data were extracted and analyzed using narrative synthesis. Based on data availability, a subset of studies was included in meta-analysis. RESULTS:Although findings of individual studies vary, there are some evidence that the infants born to substance-using mothers were likely to have preterm birth, low birthweight, small-for-gestational age, low Apgar score, and admission to neo-natal intensive care unit. The likelihood of adverse health outcomes was much higher for newborns of polysubstance-using mothers, than newborns of mothers using a single substance. Pregnant women who use illicit substance are predominantly socially disadvantaged, in their twenties and or of Aboriginal descent. CONCLUSION:Infants of substance-using mothers suffer a range of adverse health outcomes. Multidisciplinary and integrated approach of services that ensure supportive social determinants of health may result in a better outcome for newborn and positive behavioral change among mothers.

publication date

  • 2019