Women talk about the kinds of things that service providers do that help and don’t help them in their struggle with substance use. The top barriers to seeking help and support by pregnant women who use substances are:

  • shame, guilt, and fear
  • fear of child welfare services (based on her own previous experiences as a child or as a mother) and having a child removed from their care
  • fear of being treated judgementally by service providers, which increases stigma
  • feelings of depression and low self-esteem
  • the belief or hope they could change without help
  • not having enough information about available services
  • waiting lists at, or lack of appropriate, addiction treatment

These barriers cause many problems. For example, women might find it easier to:

  • not tell the whole truth to service providers and physicians
  • avoid prenatal care altogether
  • avoid seeking help for substance use problems

The consequences of these barriers will often result in the woman’s worst fear: having her children removed from her care.

On the other hand, here are the top supports that pregnant women who struggle with substance use say help them:

  • supportive service providers
  • supportive family members
  • supportive friends/recovery group members
  • children as motivators to get help
  • health problems as motivators to get help

Women appreciate holistic approaches. They want service providers to be aware of the issues  (such as poverty or violence) that make a pregnant woman’s life more challenging.  The challenges for service providers, then, are to:

  • ensure a holistic approach
  • reduce barriers to getting support
  • provide a safe, comfortable, non-judgemental environment

Here is how a service provider in one of our communities describes how their program does all of these things: 

Audio Transcription:

“I provide support any way I can, whether it’s providing rides, filling out forms (like for birth certificates or getting on OW), making referrals (to nurses, AHS, other services), being an advocate (for example, with OW in getting fees waived), and figuring out information that other service providers have given them. I never try to tell mums something that I don’t understand myself so I find out what I can from other service providers, online, and so on.”


Want more information about barriers and supports for women who struggle with substance use during pregnancy? Check this out: 


Apprehensions: Barriers to Treatment for Substance-Using Mothers

Treatment and care for pregnant women who use alcohol and/or other drugs: Information for Service Providers