Look Closer Campaign

Perinatal Substance Use

Tough times for Montana families are showing up in the form of substance dependence. In motherhood, this is referred to as perinatal substance use disorder. Substance use disorder (SUD) is a disease that affects a person’s brain chemistry, leading to an inability to control their use of a substance such as alcohol, legal or illegal drugs, or medications. There is no question that using alcohol and drugs when pregnant is harmful to a developing child. So, why is this happening and what can we do to help? 

Oftentimes, the reason for use is linked to pain and stress from childhood trauma and loss. These women are accustomed to loneliness and shame, feelings that are common in new motherhood. But our belief is that the opposite of addiction is connection.

We hope to change the paradigm and give providers the right language to use with moms struggling with substance use. When these moms seek care, meet them with compassion. Never underestimate the power of one kind interaction. It could change a life… maybe two.

Our Why

Rates are on the rise for drug overdose, alcoholic liver disease, and suicide. Referred to as diseases of despair, these conditions are often the result of feelings of hopelessness, believing that you don’t matter, anxiety, and pain from trauma. These diseases affect moms, too. Drug overdose and suicide combined are the leading cause of death in the year following childbirth for new moms. 

Depression is the number one complication of childbirth.

Provider Resources

Training on the topic of perinatal mental health is available in Montana. Use the links below to access a few helpful recordings:

  • Watch the keynote from our 2020 conference about “The Power of Pregnancy for Women with Substance Use Disorders” by Marcela Smid
  • Access the Project ECHO Clinic Archives for didactic education sessions
  • Attend the 3D ECHO series led by PRISM Medical Director, Dr. Ariela Frieder
A common hard reduction strategy is attending support groups. Talk to your patient about finding groups and peer support near them, including:

The Perinatal Harm Reduction Coalition produced a toolkit specific to serving pregnant people who use substances and their families.

Maria Russell, LCSW, talks about changing the paradigm on how to care for pregnant women on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. Watch her full interview here.

LIFTS Project

New motherhood is often isolating, but feelings of loneliness and shame are even more common for pregnant women battling substance use. Through the LIFTS project, HMHB aims to build community connections for people in the perinatal period. The LIFTS Magazine shares stories of Montana parenthood, allowing readers to connect over similar experiences. And once they’re ready for help, the LIFTS Online Resource Guide provides them with services and family-friendly events to find their community of support.