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Individuals with FASD and women who use alcohol and drugs during pregnancy have long been targets of both overt and unconscious stigma.  We know that stigma can undermine FASD prevention and intervention efforts by assigning underserved blame, simplifying a complicated issue, and focusing on deficits rather than building on strengths. Women who are shamed are often afraid to seek services, which undermines prevention efforts. Recognizing this problem, the 14 Manitoba FASD Coalitions across the province created the “Looking After Each Other: A Dignity Promotion Project” in 2014 to “promote the dignity of those with FASD and their families.”

The Looking After Each Other project completed two new resources recently to add to their previous activities. One is the FASD Language Guide in both English and French that explains how and why the way we talk about FASD can be stigmatizing. The guide reviews certain commonly used words and phrases and offers alternatives. Some phrases were once the preferred term, but have been rethought over time. For instance, framing the issue of women using alcohol and drugs as “choosing to use” blames women by failing to recognize complicating factors such as mental health, addiction, or abuse issues that make it difficult to stop using during pregnancy.

The other new resource is a mini documentary that was made in collaboration with The Mothering Project in Winnipeg. Entitled “Meeting Women Where They Are At: Community Making a Difference,” it features several women who participate in the programs and services of the Mothering Project. By sharing their stories, viewers come to understand what these women have overcome, how they have built healthy relationships with themselves, their communities, and their children, which helps to dispel conscious and unconscious biases. As Tammy Rowan, Program Manager, explain the Mothering Project takes a relational approach to supporting women in their lives and as parents. Watch the mini documentary here.

For more information, see earlier posts:

COERCIVE MESSAGING FOR PREGNANT WOMEN? June 2, 2017

REACHING AND ENGAGING WOMEN: WHAT WORKS AND WHAT’S NEEDED May 15, 2017

CONVERSATIONS ON ALCOHOL: WOMEN, THEIR PARTNERS, AND PROFESSIONALS April 23, 2017

FASD PREVENTION WITH INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES IN AUSTRALIA April 3, 2017

FIRST-EVER FASD PREVENTION PLENARY AT THE 7TH INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON FASD March 22, 2017

NEW FACILITATOR’S FASD TRAINING GUIDE FOR FIRST NATIONS WOMEN January 3, 2017

NEW ZEALAND’S NEW ACTION PLAN TO ADDRESS FASD September 17, 2016

“SUPPORTING PREGNANT WOMEN WHO USE ALCOHOL OR OTHER DRUGS: A GUIDE FOR PRIMARY HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS” May 15, 2016

THE MOTHERING PROJECT/MANITO IKWE KAGIIKWE IN WINNIPEG, MANITOBA May 1, 2015

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Manito Ikwe Kagiikwe (The Mothering Project), located at Mount Carmel Clinic in Winnipeg’s North End, provides prenatal care, parenting and child development support, group programming, advocacy, and addiction support for vulnerable pregnant women and new mothers.

CBC News interviewed Stephanie Wesley and Margaret Bryans about the program earlier this week. Bryans, a nurse and program manager at Manito Ikwe Kagiikwe, discusses the successes of the program since it first opened two years ago. The article focuses on the importance of supportive relationships and the value of a ‘focus on kindness’: “Women who are pregnant, who are using drugs and alcohol are one of the most stigmatized groups in our community.” (The Mothering Project aims to break cycle of addiction, CBC News, April 28, 2015).

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The program is a wonderful example of a integrated and holistic pregnancy program for women with addiction and related concerns. The program is based on principles of harm reduction. (Learn more about harm reduction and similar programs in this booklet, Harm Reduction and Pregnancy: Community-based Approaches to Prenatal Substance Use in Western Canada).

Since the program opened two years ago, 49 women have participated. Early evaluation findings show that, at the beginning of the program, 100% of women were actively using substances, 97% had never completed a substance use treatment program and 56% did not have a prenatal health care provider. Over the course of the program, 36% stopped using alcohol and drugs, 47% reduced their use, 39% attended an addiction treatment facility and 100% accessed prenatal care. Over half of mothers have been able to take their babies home with them from the hospital. Check out the infographic below for more.

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Pages from HR and Preg Booklet_web

This 16-page booklet provides a short introduction to harm reduction approaches during pregnancy.

Harm Reduction refers to policies, programs and practices that aim to reduce the negative health, social and economic consequences that may ensue from the use of legal and illegal psychoactive drugs, without necessarily reducing drug use.

Harm reduction  can be an important approach to FASD prevention for women who struggle with addiction and related concerns and who are often at highest risk for having a child with FASD.

The booklet gives an overview of evidence-based harm reduction approaches during pregnancy and provides concrete examples from integrated maternity programs in Western Canada that work with women with substance use concerns.

Programs profiled include: Sheway in Vancouver, Maxxine Wright Place in Surrey, HerWay Home in Victoria, H.E.R. Pregnancy Program in Edmonton and Manito Ikwe Kagiikwe (The Mothering Project) in Winnipeg.

Other topics discussed include the role of housing, peer support, rooming-in, methadone and buprenorphine use during pregnancy, and outreach.

Download Harm Reduction and Pregnancy: Community-based Approaches to Prenatal Substance Use in Western Canada from the BC Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health website.

Overview: Four Levels of FASD Prevention

Information Sheet: What Men Can Do To Prevent FASD

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