Even when a pregnant or postpartum woman is ready to stop using drugs or alcohol, she often runs into challenges getting treatment. The perceived stereotypes around pregnant women with SUDs being unfit mothers or criminals persist among health and social service providers making it hard for them to access treatment such as behavioral health services, MATS, or admission to detox and rehabilitation facilities.
According to research from the Guttmacher Institute, several states have laws around substance use during pregnancy including considering substance use during pregnancy to be child abuse under civil child-welfare statutes and grounds for civil commitment. The research also found that 25 states and the District of Columbia require healthcare professionals to report suspected prenatal drug use, and 8 states require them to test for prenatal drug exposure if they suspect drug use.
In another study, 73% of pregnant women with substance use disorders were also concerned about losing custody of their children and isolated themselves from friends, family members and avoided healthcare providers to prevent this from happening. Women who were willing to seek out treatment found that waitlists acted as an additional barrier to accessing treatment.
Wells advocates for detox and rehabilitation facilities such as Fort Wayne Recovery and Allendale Treatment that promote unbiased addiction treatment and understand how to provide the specialized care pregnant women need. “I look at the statistics and it could’ve been me; it should’ve been me,” says Wells. “Part of my work now is finding medical practitioners who understand what people with substance use disorders are going through so they can provide them with better care through their recovery.”