A newly published book entitled Mothers, Addiction and Recovery underscores the value of focusing on maternal identity and meaning for supporting women with children through addiction and recovery. By bringing together the voices of women with lived experiences, as well as program practitioners, policy makers, and researchers from across Canada, the editors illustrate the gendered nature of addictions (including gambling, food and smartphones) and the value of harm reduction and holistic approaches to healing and recovery.
Members of this Prevention Network Action Team contributed articles to the book. In “Mothering and Mentoring: The PCAP Women’s Quilt”, Dorothy Badry, Kristin Bonot, and Rhonda Nelson describe the quilt project undertaken by mentors and program participants from the Parent Child Assistance Program (PCAP) project in Alberta. Named “Woven Together”, the quilt is a visual expression of the powerful relationship ties that the women and mentors created together. As well, the article offers a historical perspective on FASD and FASD prevention efforts.
In a chapter entitled “Beyond Abstinence: Harm Reduction during Pregnancy and Early Parenting” Lenora Marcellus, Nancy Poole, and Natalie Hemsing reflect on the historical concern around substance use during pregnancy and how important it is, now, to bring a gendered and harm reduction orientation to our responses. They conclude that, regardless of the substances used, harm reduction approaches address the complex life circumstances of women, such as culture, trauma, connection to children, and practical socio-economic realities. They describe emerging and established programs that use harm-reduction and trauma-informed approaches in order to provide tailored systems of care that are non-punitive, responsive and effective for women and families. Many of these programs have been featured in this blog (see below).
This book is published by Demeter Press and features many other articles that address the experience of mothering within the context of addictions. Although the voices of women with lived experiences are included in part, the editors, Wendy E. Peterson, Laura Lynn Armstrong, and Michelle A. Foulkes, regretfully acknowledge that the book is missing the unique perspectives of Indigenous women.
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.
Best Start Resource Centre in Ontario has published a new guide to help facilitators deliver FASD workshops for First Nations women (Download guide). Using culture as its foundation, the guide focuses on promoting health. It also integrates FASD-informed and trauma-informed approaches. It is set up so that facilitators do not have to be an expert on the subject of FASD. The guide provides detailed background information, instructions and resources so that facilitators can fully prepare themselves for delivering the workshops.
Topics covered in the training guide include:
Preparing for the Workshop – covers information like bringing the workshop to communities where there is a concern about the stigma attached to FASD, planning for participant learning differences, as well as handling logistical details.
Facilitating the Workshop – includes welcoming activities, giving background about healthy pregnancy, identifying and building on personal strengths, making a plan for health, and drawing on community for support and self care.
Resources, Services and Appendices – provided are weblinks to further information and videos; services for pregnancy, parenting, substance use and FASD; participant handouts, and consent forms.
Best Start Resource Centre is well known for its resources for service providers who work with diverse women and families on preconception health, prenatal health and child development.
The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) is marking November 13-19 as National Addictions Awareness Week. Across Canada, organizations like CEWH and CanFASD are joining with CCSA to bring attention to problematic substance use in Canada. We are highlighting the imbalance between the societal, health and economic costs that substance use problems/addiction brings, and the funding provided for treatment and harm reduction services/supports.
CCSA has been a partner in our efforts to explore how addiction can make it difficult to stop alcohol use during pregnancy, and how women-centred approaches are needed in prevention, harm reduction and treatment. You can help us and the CCSA in promoting treatment, highlighting existing barriers, and finding solutions by supporting this campaign. Download the NAAW Toolkit to get ideas for social media postings and organization activities. You can also join the dialogue over social media by following @CCSACanada and using the hashtag #NAAWCanada.
Vice-Chief Kim Beaudin from the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples outlined the groups’ priorities to the ministers. Stating that “the most significant issue is violence against women and girls” Beaudin further stressed related issues of FASD, Indigenous girls’ health and safety, violence against Indigenous women, and family justice reforms for Indigenous women.
During the meeting, Ministers discussed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action. It underscores the need to address FASD in action numbers 33 and 34, in particular. Ministers agreed to collaborate on addressing solutions for the economic and social impacts of alcohol abuse and to release their final report on FASD and Access to Justice.
FASD prevention efforts in Canada call for multiple approaches that are holistic and move beyond just advising women not to drink during pregnancy (See: Four-part Model of Prevention). The impact of violence and trauma in all its forms on the mental and physical health and safety of women and their families and communities informs and shapes these efforts.
For more on related topics, see earlier blog posts:
The College of New Caledonia (CNC) has developed a FASD-informed training curriculum to support their FASD informed guide and in response to the expressed needs of three national programs supported by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) that focus on healthy birth outcomes and healthy outcomes for children.
“Facilitating a Collaborative, Strength-based Approach to FASD Informed Practice: Western Region BC” was developed following consultations with workers in The Community Action Program for Children (CAPC), the Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program (CPNP), and Aboriginal Head Start (AHS in BC). Workers and administrators wanted help in adjusting their practice of working with women, children and families to include FASD-informed approaches.
These trainings were delivered on-site to approximately 350 people during 2014-2016. Developed by Anne Guarasci and Barb Durban with funding from PHAC, the curriculum, in the form of PowerPoint presentations, has been refined for distribution and consists of three separate presentations each with a particular focus, but all include a primer on FASD including current diagnostic terminology.
1. “Supporting Marginalized Parents who may have FASD” — This presentation focuses on what causes FASD, how it is diagnosed, and who is at risk; the complex nature of prevention and why a holistic, relational approach is required; behavioural and cognitive cues that may indicate FASD; and, the fundamentals of an FASD-informed practice.
2. “Strategies and Structures for Supporting Marginalized Women and Families who may have FASD” — Participants explore practices and communication skills that empower and support clients and build relationships; examine individual and agency perceptions, policies and structures in order to reduce barriers to relationship and services for clients; and, develop FASD-specific communication strategies. Client “compliance” issues are re-examined within the context of brain functioning. FASD diagnostic terminology and pathways to access assessment and diagnosis are reviewed.
3. “FASD Prevention” — Using a FASD-informed approach as described in CNC guides (1,2) and the work of Deb Rutman (3), this training builds on the 4 levels of prevention of FASD in Canada (4): awareness and health promotion; brief counseling with women and girls of childbearing age; specialized prenatal support; and postpartum support. How FASD-informed and trauma-informed approaches overlap is explored along with many strategies for working with women, including those who may have FASD, such as building relationships and reducing barriers through reflective practice, Motivational Interviewing, harm reduction, and individualized services.
The FASD-informed practice training curricula is intended for training of program coordinators and administrators, new frontline workers and seasoned workers who may benefit from a refresher. A year-long evaluation of the training was conducted by Deborah Rutman, and the results will be available for presentation in this blog space, in the next few months.
For more about FASD-informed work, see earlier posts:
Guarasci, Anne (2013). FASD Informed Practice for Community Based Programs. Burns Lake, BC: College of New Caledonia – Lakes District Campus.
Guarasci, Anne (2011). Empowering Front-Line Staff and Families Through a Collection of Lived Experiences: Supporting Women Who Have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Behaviours and Characteristics and/or Other Related Disabilities. Burns Lake, BC: College of New Caledonia – Lake District Campus.
Each year, researchers with the Prevention Network Action Team (pNAT) of CanFASD Research Network conduct an international literature review of academic articles published on FASD prevention. Rose Schmidt and Nancy Poole of BC Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health looked at articles published between January and December 2015 and compiled a comprehensive bibliography of 88 FASD prevention-related articles – an increase of 25 articles from last year. With this review, those working on FASD prevention will be able to update themselves on the most current evidence and tailor policy and practice accordingly.
The bulk of the articles have come from the U.S., Canada and Australia, the United Kingdom and South Africa, in that order. The articles are organized under the four-level prevention framework created by the pNAT, as well as including articles related to FASD prevalence, influences, issues of preconception, indigenous women and young women. Fourteen articles were assigned to more than one topic category.
A look at “prevalence”
The topic category with the most articles was prevalence, followed in order by brief intervention with girls and women of childbearing age (Level 2), and influences. Preconception, raising awareness (Level 1), and specialized prenatal report (Level 3) also had a significant number of articles. We will highlight these topics individually in this blog over time in order to focus on key components of FASD prevention.
There were 26 articles having to do with prevalence rates as compared to seven articles in that category in 2014. They relate to specific location, U.S., Canada, Uganda, Norway and Tanzania, for instance, as well as pregnancy intentions, characteristics of women at risk for alcohol-exposed pregnancy, women’s understanding of risk factors during pregnancy, rates of binge drinking, adverse childhood experiences, and use of both alcohol and tobacco during pregnancy.
Some of the more compelling findings include:
new data from Canada shows that 27% of pregnancies are unintended – useful in that previous data on unintended pregnancies has been from the U.S. only ;
smoking currently or in the past increased the likelihood of consuming alcohol during pregnancy ;
experiences of abuse and violence are associated with higher levels of drinking during pregnancy, as well as higher education levels and older maternal age [4-9];
a “dose response” relationship was found to exist between adverse childhood experiences and drinking during pregnancy, and;
smoking during pregnancy was the most consistent predictor of drinking during pregnancy .
Preconception behaviors as they relate to prevalence of alcohol-exposed pregnancies, in general, has become more of a focus in prevention efforts, and will be further discussed in upcoming blog posts on this bibliography.
For more information on FASD Prevention and Prevalence, see these earlier posts:
Oulman, E., et al., Prevalence and predictors of unintended pregnancy among women: an analysis of the Canadian Maternity Experiences Survey. BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth, 2015. 15: p. 1-8.
Lange, S., et al., Alcohol use, smoking and their co-occurrence during pregnancy among Canadian women, 2003 to 2011/12. Addictive Behaviors, 2015. 50: p. 102-109.
Frankenberger, D.J., K. Clements-Nolle, and W. Yang, The association between adverse childhood experiences and alcohol use during pregnancy in a representative sample of adult women. Women’s Health Issues, 2015. 25(6): p. 688-695.
English, L., et al., Prevalence of Ethanol Use Among Pregnant Women in Southwestern Uganda. Journal Of Obstetrics And Gynaecology Canada: JOGC = Journal D’obstétrique Et Gynécologie Du Canada: JOGC, 2015. 37(10): p. 901-902.
González-Mesa, E., et al., High levels of alcohol consumption in pregnant women from a touristic area of Southern Spain. Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 2015. 35(8): p. 821-824.
Dunney, C., K. Muldoon, and D.J. Murphy, Alcohol consumption in pregnancy and its implications for breastfeeding. British Journal of Midwifery, 2015. 23(2): p. 126-134.
Kingsbury, A.M., et al., Women’s frequency of alcohol consumption prior to pregnancy and at their pregnancy-booking visit 2001–2006: A cohort study. Women & Birth, 2015. 28(2): p. 160-165 6p.
Kitsantas, P., K.F. Gaffney, and H. Wu, Identifying high-risk subgroups for alcohol consumption among younger and older pregnant women. Journal of Perinatal Medicine, 2015. 43(1): p. 43-52 10p.
Lanting, C.I., et al., Prevalence and pattern of alcohol consumption during pregnancy in the Netherlands. BMC Public Health, 2015. 15(1): p. 1-5.
O’Keeffe, L.M., et al., Prevalence and predictors of alcohol use during pregnancy: findings from international multicentre cohort studies. BMJ Open, 2015. 5(7): p. e006323-e006323.
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.
This new resource from the National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Australia, is designed for all primary health care professions who see women in a broad range of health care service settings during the course of their practice.
The best practices guide builds on the evidence for providing coordinated, supportive and comprehensive care to pregnant women who use substances by providing a model for reducing the harm from alcohol and substance for women and their babies. See page 12 of this guide for a clearly charted overview of how physicians and other health care practitioners can support withdrawal, do psycho-social and nutritional interventions, and address barriers to care for pregnant women.
The model acknowledges the interconnections that impact a woman’s use of substances during pregnancy – including domestic violence, mental health, smoking, and stigma – and provides a guide for identifying risk and next steps for further assessment, support and/or treatment. See page 9 for a view of how identification differs for women who are pregnant, planning a pregnancy, or not planning a pregnancy.
It also moves beyond normal referral and coordination practices by using a holistic assessment process and designating a case coordinator or clinical lead to ensure “assertive follow-up.” Assertive follow-up consists of: making sure women are supported during pregnancy and birth; keeping mothers and their babies in the hospital so that post-birth assessments for mother and child can be done and plans for support and services are in place; providing breastfeeding, safe sleeping, parenting skills and contraception support; as well as, interfacing with partners, family members, and community agencies in support of the woman and her child. See page 16 for more discussion on assertive follow-up and pages 19-20 for “Addressing barriers to care”.
Although the extensive resources that are included in this guide are geared for practitioners in Australia, many of them provide topic-specific information that practitioners everywhere may find helpful. See pages 24-27 for website links.
For more on screening in primary care settings, see previous posts:
An awareness that FASD (diagnosed and undiagnosed) is a reality for many individuals involved with a variety of community-based programs
A strong theoretical and practical understanding of the traits, characteristics, barriers, and needs of those affected by FASD
A willingness on the part of program staff, including administration, reception, and frontline workers, to participate in ongoing FASD education and training initiatives
Agency policies that accommodate the unique needs of individuals living with FASD in order to create a program that works for all participants
A respectful and individualized approach to service delivery that recognizes individual strengths
This guide from the College of New Caledonia is designed to assist programs in providing FASD-informed services and supports. The approaches discussed were developed from evidence-based research and from the practical experience of individuals working with women and their families who may be living with FASD.
The guide includes sections on promoting dialogue about alcohol and drug use during pregnancy, contraception, trauma-informed practice, effective group facilitation, strategies for individual support, and examples of exercises that can be used in group programming.
FASD Informed Practice for Community Based Programs can be downloaded from the College of New Caledonia website here.
For more about FASD-informed work at the College of New Caledonia, see an earlier posts: