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JOURNAL

Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment

Prenatal Substance Use: Exploring Assumptions of Maternal Unfitness

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Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment 2015:Suppl. 2 1-4

Commentary

Published on 20 Sep 2015

DOI: 10.4137/SART.S23328


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Abstract

In spite of the growing knowledge and understanding of addiction as a chronic relapsing medical condition, individuals with substance use disorders (SUD) continue to experience stigmatization. Pregnant women who use substances suffer additional stigma as their use has the potential to cause fetal harm, calling into question their maternal fitness and often leading to punitive responses. Punishing pregnant women denies the integral interconnectedness of the maternal-fetal dyad. Linking substance use with maternal unfitness is not supported by the balance of the scientific evidence regarding the actual harms associated with substance use during pregnancy. Such linkage adversely impacts maternal, child, and family health by deterring pregnant women from seeking both obstetrical care and SUD treatment. Pregnant women who use substances deserve compassion and care, not pariah-status and punishment.



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