The attitudes of healthcare professionals towards women using illicit substances in pregnancy: A cross-sectional study

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Aim To assess the attitudes of healthcare professionals towards women who use substances in the maternity setting. Background Illicit drug use in pregnancy leads to poor maternal and neonatal outcomes. Early access to antenatal care has been shown to improve outcomes however women who use substances in pregnancy have statistically low attendance rates to appointments. Fear of stigma from healthcare professionals is a commonly stated reason for not accessing maternity health services or not disclosing substance use to care givers, however little research has been conducted which assesses stigma from a healthcare perspective. Methods A cross-sectional quantitative research design was implemented using a previously validated attitudinal survey tool to assess the attitudes of healthcare practitioners and final year midwifery students. Ethics approval was sought and granted by the relevant institutions. A total of 147 completed questionnaires were returned. Data was analysed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences and parametric testing was undertaken. Results Participants had largely positive or neutral attitudes towards women who use substances in pregnancy. Most participants agreed or strongly agreed that the care they provide to can make a real difference to outcomes. Midwifery students had significantly lower mean attitude scores, showing more positive attitudes, than any other group tested. Conclusion This research provides useful insight into the attitudes of healthcare professionals. While larger scale research is needed, the positive findings of this study may work towards reducing fear of stigma as a barrier to care for women.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)330-335
Number of pages6
JournalWomen and Birth
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016


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