Management of substance abuse

Substance use in pregnancy

Guidelines for the management of substance use and substance use disorders in pregnancy

Use of alcohol, illicit drugs and other psychoactive substances during pregnancy can lead to multiple health and social problems for both mother and child, including miscarriage, stillbirth, low birthweight, prematurity, physical malformations and neurological damage.

Dependence on alcohol and other drugs can also severely impair an individual’s functioning as a parent, spouse or partner, and instigate and trigger gender-based and domestic violence, thus significantly affecting the physical, mental and emotional development of children.

Pregnancy may be an opportunity for women, their partners and other people living in their household to change their patterns of alcohol and other substance use. Health workers providing care for women with substance use disorders during pregnancy need to understand the complexity of the woman’s social, mental and physical problems in order to provide appropriate advice and support throughout pregnancy and the postpartum period.

These guidelines contain recommendations on the identification and management of substance use and substance use disorders for health care services which assist women who are pregnant, or have recently had a child, and who use alcohol or drugs or who have a substance use disorder. They have been developed in response to requests from organizations, institutions and individuals for technical guidance on the identification and management of alcohol and other substance use and substance use disorders in pregnant women, with the target of healthy outcomes for both pregnant and their fetus or infant.

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