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How to Help a Woman Who is Misusing Opioids and Becomes Pregnant
by Steven H. Chapman M.D., General Academic Pediatrics Director, Boyle Community Pediatrics Program, Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center
Two of the hardest human experiences I can think of are having a baby and getting into recovery. For a pregnant woman struggling with an opioid use disorder, doing both at the same time is not only remarkable, but actually very possible.
As a pediatrician, I have seen many women work hard during pregnancy to achieve recovery, and make strong commitments to parenting at the same time. These are some of the most amazing and heroic people I have encountered in my professional career. Pregnancy gives a specific and strong motivation to achieve recovery, and recovery can make possible attentive and supportive parenting — with the right supports!
This new PDF guide on Pregnancy & Opioids is meant to help you be a key part of those supports. The sections on helping the mother-to-be get to appointments as well as to support breastfeeding and newborn health are particularly useful, but perhaps the section to read most closely would be “Understand the Stigma, Discrimination and Prejudice.” One of the most important things you can do is recognize and support this woman when she is being an attentive and loving mother, and help her develop a sense of pride in both her recovery and parenting.
The section on Medication-Assisted Treatment represents the best and most up-to-date understanding of recovery care. Medications such as buprenorphine are standard care, and widely recognized as good for recovery and good for parenting.
I hope you find this guide useful. Remember, addiction is sometimes considered a disease of isolation, so the connection and support you provide are a key part of the solution.