Nurses and midwives tackle how to support mums with substance use issues

07/Oct/2020     HealthMater Mothers' Hospital

Following the first successful nursing and midwifery grand round discussion earlier in the year that saw more than 60 people across Mater’s Queensland-wide campuses come together to discuss the noticeable effects of COVID-19, Mater’s second Nursing and Midwifery Grand Round for the year recently hit the ground with great success.

Looking into support strategies for women throughout and beyond pregnancy with substance use issues, this session saw nurses and midwives from across Mater once again come together virtually, this time learning how Mater’s specialised antenatal service – the Mater Mothers’ CHAMP clinic – supports up to 35 postnatal women with substance use issues each and every month across South East Queensland.

Registered Midwife and Mater Care Coordinator with CHAMP at Home, Kara Williams shared that with the prevalence of drug use in the Australia community, the stats also show the dangers these issues can have on pregnancies.

“In 2019, around 3.4 million Australians reported using an illicit drug, including in some cases, substance addiction during and after pregnancy which have alarmingly more dangerous potential side-effects when compared to those who are not pregnant,” Mrs Williams said.

“The potential side-effects for during and after pregnancy include intrauterine growth restriction, increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and congenital abnormalities.”

Not surprisingly, the CHAMP at Home service currently sees around 10 new referrals every month, with the figures only expected to rise.

“Substance use can also have significant influence on the mental health, emotional response and bonding between parent and baby,” Mrs Williams explained.

“Women with substance use issues often report discrimination and social isolation and are wary of accessing health care services as they often fear being judged or are embarrassed of their situation.”

Ms Williams shared that the CHAMP at Home program intends to act as advocates for these mothers and their babies, providing an added layer of comfort by providing care and support in patients’ own homes.

“We partner with the mums, helping to set patient-driven goals with the aim of closing the gap in the continuity of care for postnatal women during the critical first six months of returning home with a newborn,” she said.

“By helping women in their own environments, we often find they are often more at ease and willing to discuss their concerns openly.”

In sharing a case study with the group, Ms Williams explained that for many women with a former substance use problem, returning home after having a baby in hospital can be when she feels most vulnerable due to a range of psychosocial factors.

“At our first in-home visit, we conduct a risk assessment looking at a wide range of factors that could impact the safety of the mother and child.”

“These include things like culture, finances, housing and relationships – for example, whether her partner is also a substance user and whether there is any existing or risk of domestic violence,” Mrs Williams explained.

Mrs Williams shared that program then connects women with a wide range of essential support services and has found successful outcomes for many women by being flexible, using active listening, along with therapeutic communications.

“Our teams focus on treating the patient as a holistic person, bringing dignity and respect to our conversations, and understanding the difference between supporting and empowering clients.”

Mater’s Nursing and Midwifery Grand Rounds will continue on a quarterly basis throughout the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, with the final session scheduled for 11 November.

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