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Topic 4 – Pregnant Women and Problematic Substance Use

Topic Progress:

pregnant-1246237_640Stigma is a significant factor for pregnant women who have problematic substance use issues. Many face discrimination and judgment when presenting for care. Caregiver anxiety is often communicated by an insistence on immediate abstinence which may or may not be possible or desirable on the part of the pregnant woman. Creating a safe, supportive and non-judgmental environment of care will increase the likelihood of continued participation in and compliance with care, improving outcomes for both the woman and her baby.

“Pregnant women who smoke, who drink, who use prescription or illegal drugs are as deserving of compassion, comprehensive support, interventions and treatment — and perhaps even more so — as anyone else presenting with an addiction issue,”

Source Link: Stigma a major barrier to treatment for pregnant women with addictions

A 2001 study identified that the barriers to substance use treatment for pregnant women included:

Shame among participants


Fear of losing their children if they identified a need for treatment


Fear of prejudicial treatment on the basis of their motherhood/pregnancy status


Feelings of depression and low self-esteem


Of note, this study identified that the most common reason for pregnant women seeking help was when a provider asked if they needed help.

Source Link: Barriers to Treatment for Substance-Using Mothers

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)

While using substances when pregnant can result in developmental, emotional and behavioural problems for the child later in life, alcohol consumption during pregnancy can cause a range of serious physical and mental defects in the developing baby which are permanent and irreversible. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a term that describes a range of disabilities that may occur in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy.

For further information on FASD and British Columbia’s Plan for addressing FASD, please see the link below:

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: Building on Strengths

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