Substance Abuse During Pregnancy: Canadians Suggest We Should be Less Judgmental

Most of us understand that it’s not good to smoke, drink alcohol or abuse drugs during pregnancy. Substance abuse during pregnancy can lead to a myriad of complications including a baby born addicted to drugs, low birth weight, premature birth, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and a variety of developmental and cognitive difficulties that will persist into childhood and adulthood.

But despite this knowledge, some women do it anyway. In 2008, thirteen percent of Canadian women admitted to smoking during pregnancy, 11% admitted to drinking alcohol and 5% reported smoking. Is there anything we can do? According to a new report released by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) there is: show a little compassion and be less judgmental.

The woman we see drinking while obviously pregnant may very well know the damage she may be doing to her baby, but maybe she cannot stop on her own. Maybe she needs help to overcome her addiction, but cannot get that help. Or maybe she is afraid to ask for help because she knows that she will be judged harshly or she is afraid her child(ren) will be taken from her by Child Protective Services. What she needs is helpful information and advice from healthcare providers that will take the opportunity of healthcare visits to give her nonjudgmental information of the dangers to herself and her baby. She needs access to treatment that will include counseling, community resources and medically assisted therapy.

We have no idea why this woman is doing what she is doing. Many addicts have been abused, experienced trauma, been neglected as children.  But we can do our part by helping instead of hindering. By removing the social stigma and funding help for these women and their babies. In most cases, we still catch more flies with honey than with vinegar; compassion may well win the day for the mothers and their unborn children in need.



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