The experiences of pregnant women attending a specialist service and using methamphetamine.

Angela O'Connor, Emma Harris, Dale Hamilton, Colleen Fisher, Mark Sachmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Pregnant women attending the Specialist Drug and Alcohol Service in Perth use methamphetamine as their primary drug of choice. This is the only tertiary service for pregnant and postnatal women with complex Alcohol and Other Drug Use in Western Australia. It is a midwifery-led multidisciplinary team. Many of the women struggle with addiction, polysubstance use, co-occurring mental health, family and domestic violence, complex trauma and fear of Child Protection and infant removal. Therefore, the aim of this study was to understand the impact of methamphetamine use of pregnant women attending the service and explore and highlight the potential barriers to engagement and follow-up.

A qualitative study informed by phenomenological methods was undertaken using semi-structured interviews with 20 women with methamphetamine use attending the service in order to explore and understand the experience of using methamphetamine in pregnancy and the postpartum period. A thematic analysis was undertaken with data from the women in the study (n=20) to identify key themes.

Key themes that emerged from the women's experiences detail their resilience and experience with methamphetamine and the impact that methamphetamine has on their life. A key concern for women regarding methamphetamine use and engagement with specialist services was the welfare of their child(ren). Agencies charged with child protection was a barrier to treatment because women feared disclosure of methamphetamine use would result in loss of child custody. Themes highlighted the multiple layers of adversities, and trauma from childhood to adulthood including, co-occurring drug use, mental health and life histories of trauma (abuse, violence, and neglect; intergenerational trauma; intergenerational drug and alcohol use, and child removal), the omnipresence of methamphetamine, and the impact on pregnancy and mothering.

We conclude that understanding the experiences of women and the impact methamphetamine use has on their life is paramount to providing effective and appropriate care to support pregnant women in a trauma-informed and woman-centred approach. Poor engagement in pregnancy care for women with methamphetamine use has significant impacts on mother and infant
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170-179
Number of pages10
JournalWomen and Birth
Issue number2
Early online date13 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


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