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Supporting Pregnant & Postpartum Women

Substance misuse among pregnant women, including illicit substance use, misuse of prescribed medications, and binge drinking, has increased year after year for the past decade.1 Meeting the needs of pregnant women with substance use disorders requires a collaborative approach among the courts and medical, substance use, child welfare, and early childhood providers who develop programs and deliver services to women, infants, and families. In 2016, Congress amended the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act through the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. New requirements emphasize that plans of safe care address the needs of infants who are identified as affected by substance misuse, experience withdrawal symptoms, or have fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. It also stipulates development of a services plan for the infant and their family or caregiver. Coordinated services and early intervention for pregnant and postpartum women with substance use disorders are critical to preparing families for optimal parent and infant bonding, and the family’s stability, health, and well-being. 2, 3

The resources provided here can help systems and individuals understand the needs of pregnant and postpartum women with substance use disorders and support development of collaborative strategies and plans of safe care to increase access to treatment, recovery, and support for women, infants, and families.

1 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Detailed Table 6.65B, “Types of Illicit Drug Use in Past Month Among Females Age 15–44 by Pregnancy Status: Percentages 2016 and 2017” and 6.68B, “Alcohol Use, Binge Alcohol Use and Heavy Alcohol Use in Past Month Among Females Aged 15–44, By Pregnancy Status…: Percentages, 2016 and 2017.” https://www.samhsa.gov/data/report/2017-nsduh-detailed-tables. Accessed January 14, 2019.

2 Kroelinger CD, Rice ME, Cox S, et al. State strategies to address opioid use disorder among pregnant and postpartum women and infants prenatally exposed to substances, including infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2019;68:777–783. http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6836a1

3 American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Committee on Obstetric Practice and American Society of Addiction Medicine. Opioid use and opioid use disorder in pregnancy. Committee Opinion; Number 711, August 2017. https://www.acog.org/Clinical-Guidance-and-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Obstetric-Practice/Opioid-Use-and-Opioid-Use-Disorder-in-Pregnancy?IsMobileSet Accessed October 10, 2019.

Contact Us

The National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare offers free technical assistance to a various of systems on making policy and practice changes to improve outcomes for families affected by substance use disorders and involvement with child welfare services. To learn more about technical assistance services or if you have a question please email NCSACW at ncsacw@cffutures.org or call toll-free at 1–866–493–2758.

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