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The Hope Project app

With most everyone having a smartphone these days, people are using apps to support their health. There are a few apps directed to pregnant women about their substance use and mental health. Some recent efforts developed together by researchers and health providers show how these apps can be used to offer focused information and support to pregnant women.

A perinatal mental health research project in Alberta, The Hope Project, is exploring how e-technology can be used to support pregnant women with mental health concerns. Dr. Dawn Kingston and her team at the University of Calgary developed an app for screening and treating pregnant women experiencing anxiety and depression. It provides information, support, and help to women in the research study whenever they need it. The project will also look at how this intervention affects post-partum depression and the health of their children.

SmartMom Canada, was developed as part of a study from the University of British Columbia. Through text messaging, Optimal Birth BC provides women in Northern BC with prenatal education endorsed by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC). Many of these women live in rural areas and may have limited access to prenatal care. Women who enroll in the study complete a confidential survey and then receive personalized text messages that include pregnancy tips, info on health topics, and available resources in their own community.

SmartMom Canada app

Women outside of these studies may find it challenging to find similar apps. Popular pregnancy apps do not offer much info or ideas for resources for women with mental health or substance use issues. One that has been positively evaluated is Text4baby in the U.S. The sponsors partner with national, state, and private organizations and offer local resource information in some states. Also available to Spanish speakers, an evaluation of the app can be found here.

As well, apps are being targeted to health care providers on improving the care they provide. A preconception care app available to physicians provides them with information from the National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative and makes suggestions for responding to patient questions. Research is being done on using an app to provide motivational interviewing interventions to pregnant women who use substances.

Most apps available on smartphones are directed toward the general population and seek a large user base. Mental health apps and substance use apps that might support prevention, are not designed specifically for women, pregnant or not. And most pregnancy apps focus on fetal growth and “kick counters”, the woman’s weight and blood pressure, and checklists to get ready for a child.

So, while there is an app for everything, they may not an app for everyone. However, healthcare technology is growing at a fast pace, so hopefully we will see more apps in future that can expand FASD prevention efforts.

Related topics:



For the last four years, HerWay Home in Victoria, BC, has been providing outreach, medical and social services to pregnant and parenting women with difficult lives in a one-stop supportive environment. On June 23 from 9:00-10:00 a.m. PST, there will be a free webinar to share the results of a first-phase evaluation of HerWay.

Deborah Rutman and Carol Hubberstey of Nota Bene Consulting, and Nancy Poole of BC Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health will discuss lessons learned and promising practices, and lead a discussion on working with pregnant and parenting women affected by substance use, violence and mental health issues. With its child-focused, women-centred and family focused approach, HerWay Home encourages positive parenting and healthy outcomes for children and women.

Click here for more information and register by June 20th at

To learn more about HerWay home and similar programs, see these previous postings:


The Mothers’ Mental Health Toolkit was born out of a partnership between the IWK Reproductive Mental Health Service and Family Resource Centres in Nova Scotia.

IWK toolkit

It is a  collection of resources intended to support those who work with vulnerable mothers and families and includes materials for mental health promotion, education, screening, intervention, and advocacy. It includes a section on exploring substance use with women.

Visit the IWK Health Centre website to download the Toolkit, find practical worksheets for working with families, online video clips, and a manual for running an 8-week group based on the toolkit materials. There are also resources for individuals providing training on how to use the Mother’s Mental Health Toolkit.





Registration is now open for the 7th Annual Fall FASD Conference: Untangling Anxiety.

The conference will be held on Saturday, November 22nd, 2014 at Douglas College in New Westminster, British Columbia.

Follow the link for the full conference brochure.

The conference has been organized by the FASD Collaboration Roundtable -which is a way of bringing together people from across systems to network, share information, discuss issues and problem-solve effective responses, then try to entrench that in policy and practice. The goal is to involve all of the key systems and agencies that deliver services to children, youth and adults with FASD in the greater community. In addition, the Roundtable welcomes the voices of parents, grandparents, other caregivers of individuals with FASD, as well as other advocates, for the experience-based perspectives these stakeholders bring to the discussion.

Each year the Roundtable focuses on a different topic relevant to FASD such as sensory integration, depression, trauma or attachment. This year the topic is on addressing FASD and anxiety.

Conference participants will:

  • Learn about emerging knowledge of anxiety as it relates to individuals with FASD and their caregivers
  • Learn about current practices and supports available for individuals living with FASD who also  experience anxiety
  • Learn self care strategies for caregivers and support professionals who experience anxiety while  supporting individuals with FASD
  • Network and liaise with families and professionals

For more information, visit the Asante Centre website.


CHNET-Works! - Free webinars in Population Health

CHNET-Works! is a project of the Population Health Improvement Research Network at the University of Ottawa. It is a network of networks linking researchers, decision-makers and practitioners in population health and stakeholder sectors from across Canada.

On September 9, 2014 (International FASD Awareness Day), CHNET-Works! will be hosting a “fireside chat” or free webinar on “Awareness of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD): Making the Connections! / Sensibilisation à l’ensemble des troubles causés par l’alcoolisation foetale (ETCAF): Relier les points!”

Learn about the connections and progress of collaborative efforts from three compelling perspectives of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), including:

  • What’s crucial to know about living with FASD and mental health issues– if you’re a parent, care-giver, front line provider or community member;
  • The important role of front line health providers in prevention, and in talking to women about alcohol use throughout life – especially during pregnancy;
  • What exciting new research is telling us about the differences and similarities between the brains of children and youth with FASD, autism and cerebral palsy.

Speakers will include:

  • Dan Dubovsky, MSW –  FASD specialist for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) FASD Center for Excellence in the United States –
  • Dr. Jennifer Blake, MD MSC FRCSC – Chief Executive Officer of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) –
  • Dr. Daniel Goldowitz, PhD -Scientific Director of NeuroDevNet , Canada Research Chair in Developmental Neurogenetics and Professor in the Department of Medical Genetics at the University of British Columbia –

Who should attend? Front line providers who work with people with FASD, health and allied practitioners or providers concerned about prevention, those interested in the social determinants of health across the lifespan, policy makers interested in innovative research findings, and communities interested in learning more about preventing FASD and how to better support individuals and families living with FASD.

Visit the CHNET-Works! website for registration information.



Program and Registration Information now available

Living Well home page

The Living Well: FASD and Mental Health conference will be held November 5-7, 2014 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The conference is an initiative of the Canada Northwest FASD Partnership Conference and hosted by Healthy Child Manitoba.

The Living Well: FASD and Mental Health conference will delve into the interconnection between mental health and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder spanning the areas of prevention, intervention, support, evaluation and research. This multidisciplinary event will cover topics such as how individuals with FASD and mental health concerns can be better understood and supported, how caregivers can support their mental health and how mental health concerns influence FASD prevention work.

Keynote Presentations include:

  • Dan Dubovsky — Working with Individuals Living with FASD and Mental Health Concerns: Best and Promising Practices
  • Nancy Poole — Working with Pregnant Women with Mental Health and Substance Use Concerns: Best and Promising Practices
  • Dr. Ana Hanlon-Dearman — FASD Diagnosis: Mental Health Considerations
  • Dr. Mansfield Mela — FASD and Mental Health Disorders: Exclusive or Mosaic?
  • Brenda Knight — Responding to the Complex Issues of Families Living with FASD
  • Momenta and the FASD Family Network — Feeling Success: The Camp Experience

Some of the workshops included in the program are:

  • FASD Assessments: From the Clinic to the Court Room — Jonathan Rudin and Panel
  • Evaluation: What’s All the Fuss About? — Jacquie Pei and Panel
  • We’ve Only Just Begun: Advances in FASD Prevention — Nancy Poole and Colleen Dell

Visit the conference website here. View the full program here.

CALL FOR ABSTRACTS - 2014 Conference (Final)

Healthy Child Manitoba, in partnership with the Canada Northwest FASD Partnership, will be hosting the Living Well: FASD and Mental Health conference to be held at the Winnipeg Convention Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba from November 5-7, 2014.

The Living Well: FASD and Mental Health conference will bring awareness to issues related to mental health and mental illness for those most directly affected by FASD and will foster a commitment to advance the knowledge and implementation of evidence informed strategies and programs.

Participants will learn about current research and best practices in responding to complex issues such as:

  • Mental health and substance use for pregnant and parenting women
  • Mental wellness for those living with FASD
  • Case management for individuals living with FASD and mental health co-morbidities
  • Diagnosing FASD and co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Emotional wellbeing for caregivers of individuals living with FASD

See the call for abstracts here. Deadline for submission is April 25, 2014.


Pages from Circle_of_Life_FINAL_CompleteGuide_March2013

Celebrating the Circle of Life: Coming back to Balance and Harmony: A guide to emotional health in pregnancy and early motherhood for Aboriginal women and their families is a guide developed by Perinatal Services BC and the BC Reproductive Mental Health Program, a program of BC Mental Health & Addiction Services.

The guide has seven parts:

  • Introduction
  • Part 1 – Basic Aboriginal Teachings
  • Part 2 – Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the first year of being a parent
  • Part 3 – Feelings during Pregnancy and After the Birth
  • Part 4 – Coming back to Balance and Harmony
  • Part 5 – For Partners, Family and Friends
  • Part 6 – Resources

Alcohol use is discussed throughout the guide, including in the sections about pregnancy and the first year of being a mother.

The guide was developed for:

  • Aboriginal Women – This guide was created to help soon-to-be and new mothers who are worried about their mood and/or experiencing depression.  The guide is focused on emotional health and includes information on what to expect and how to cope with all of the changes that come with pregnancy and a new baby.
  • Health Care Providers – This guide can also be used by healthcare providers who work with Aboriginal women and their families in the Perinatal period, especially those who may be experiencing baby blues or depression.
  • Partners, Families & Friends – Part five is written for partners, families and friends and includes information on how to support a woman during pregnancy, childbirth and the early months of being a parent.

The guide can be downloaded from the Perinatal Services BC website.


Overview: Four Levels of FASD Prevention

Information Sheet: What Men Can Do To Prevent FASD