Thunder Bay plans services for pregnant women, new moms with addictions

Thunder Bay plans services for pregnant women, new moms with addictions

18 per cent of women who deliver babies at Thunder Bay hospital report substance use

By Jody Porter, CBC News


Pregnant women and new mothers struggling with addictions are the focus of a new strategy being developed by health and social service providers in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Statistics from 2014 show that 18 per cent of women who delivered a baby at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre reported “substance use,” according to the city’s drug strategy coordinator, Cynthia Olsen.

The complex problem of serving both mothers and children requires a multi-pronged approach to care, she said.

“Women need unique services,” Olsen said. “We need to be able to provide appropriate services that are holistic and we need to better support the children of the families.”

Dr. Naana Jumah, a clinician and researcher at the Thunder Bay hospital, studied the concerns of pregnant women in the region outside the city and found that traveling to give birth presents its own set of problems.

Dr. Naana Jumah, Margaret Leslie, Cynthia Olson

“Women who have addictions issues, substance use issues, who come from more complicated social situation — the effect of removing them from their communities and their supports is that much more magnified,”  Jumah said.

Jumah said the shortage of mental health services across the region also presents problems, particularly in small communities where women may be stigmatized while seeking help.

“Women being pregnant and being identified as substance-using can often cause that woman feel a lot of shame, can cause her to be identified in the community, can cause her to be targeted,” she said.

Thunder Bay is looking towards Mothercraft – Breaking the Cycle program as a successful model. The program has been operating in Toronto for 20 years.

“We see decreased rates of children going into care [of child welfare agencies] because their moms have received the care that they needed during pregnancy and have been able to make changes for themselves and their children,” said Margaret Leslie, the director of early intervention programs with Breaking the Cycle.

No time-line has been set for Thunder Bay to develop its own model for serving pregnant women and new mothers who use substances, Olsen said.

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