Unpacking Perinatal Experiences with Opioid Use Disorder: Relapse Risk Implications

Rankin, L., Mendoza, N.S. & Grisham, L. Unpacking Perinatal Experiences with Opioid Use Disorder: Relapse Risk Implications. Clin Soc Work J (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10615-022-00847-x


While pregnancy presents a strong motivation to seek and comply with treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD), many women relapse within the first year of childbirth. Addressing relapse risk, we examined the perinatal experiences of mothers with OUD through 6 months postpartum. We recruited mothers (N = 42) with a history of OUD into the Newborn Attachment and Wellness study, all of whom met with a child welfare worker immediately after giving birth. In qualitative interviews, mothers described their social, physical, emotional, and psychological perinatal experiences. Seven themes categorically informed relapse risk (i.e., related to childhood bond, mother-infant attachment, birth support, child protective services, breastfeeding, mental health, and recovery planning). In conclusion, we noted a critical window in which clinical social workers and other health/behavioral health providers have the opportunity to capitalize on mothers’ desire not to “ever want to touch it again.” We outline specific avenues for directed support in the perinatal and postpartum period associated with reduced risk for relapse, and we make recommendations to enhance risk assessment practices.

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