Research aims to reduce alcohol-exposed pregnancies

By Roman Petrowski, Office of Communications

Dr. Angela Sotts - NIAAA Grant
Angela Stotts, PhD

Angela Stotts, PhD, professor and vice chair for research in the Department of Family and Community Medicine, received a 5-year subaward from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism via New York University to lead a groundbreaking study on a novel intervention strategy aimed at reducing alcohol-exposed pregnancies.

“I have conducted a number of clinical trials of behavioral interventions for pregnant and postpartum women who were smoking or using illicit substances, but this is my first alcohol trial,” Stotts said. “I’m really excited to partner again with my colleagues, Sean Blackwell, MD, and Hector Mendez-Figueroa, MD, in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences, to improve the health of their patients and potentially improve infant and child outcomes.”

The project is part of a collaborative initiative on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders funded by the NIH/NIAAA and is the first prevention trial funded by the consortium. Prenatal alcohol exposure is known to increase the risks of poor birth, infant, and child outcomes that can persist across the lifespan.

The project, Safe Start, aims to address the urgent need for evidence-based interventions to reduce alcohol consumption among women in prenatal care. The research uses a randomized clinical trial to test the effectiveness of a brief motivational-behavioral intervention delivered during scheduled prenatal visits. The intervention consists of both media-based and nurse counseling components spread over three sessions – one in each trimester.

“The ultimate goal is to prevent fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in children,” Stotts said. “If found effective, the  brief intervention could be disseminated and implemented in prenatal clinics across the U.S., as there is currently no evidence-based treatment.”

Stotts holds a cross-appointment with the Louis A. Faillace, MD, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences as well as an appointment in the Center for Clinical Research and Evidence-Based Medicine. Stotts has been continuously funded since 2000 and has served on NIH study sections and emphasis panels.