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Examining the benefits of an Australian mothers’ group specifically for women with substance use disorders: a qualitative analysis

Authors:

Carolyn A. Day ,

Sydney Medical School (Central Clinical School), Faculty of Medicine, University of Sydney, Australia Edith Collins Centre (Translational Research in Alcohol, Drugs and Toxicology), Sydney Local Health District Sydney Local Health District, Sydney Institute for Women Children and their Families, AU
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Maja L. Moensted,

Sydney Medical School (Central Clinical School), Faculty of Medicine, University of Sydney, Australia Edith Collins Centre (Translational Research in Alcohol, Drugs and Toxicology), Sydney Local Health District Sydney School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney, AU
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Heidi Coupland,

Sydney Medical School (Central Clinical School), Faculty of Medicine, University of Sydney, AU
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Rachel Braude,

Sydney Medical School (Central Clinical School), Faculty of Medicine, University of Sydney, AU
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Sharon E. Reid,

Sydney Medical School (Central Clinical School), Faculty of Medicine, University of Sydney, Australia Edith Collins Centre (Translational Research in Alcohol, Drugs and Toxicology), Sydney Local Health District Drug Health Services, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney Local Health District, AU
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Bethany White

Edith Collins Centre (Translational Research in Alcohol, Drugs and Toxicology), Sydney Local Health District Sydney Local Health District, Sydney Institute for Women Children and their Families, AU
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Abstract

Introduction: Pregnant women and mothers experiencing substance use disorders (SUD) face unique barriers to accessing health care services, and many avoid antenatal care out of fear of social and legal sanction. Mothers’ groups are a worldwide practice that women with SUD generally exclude themselves from due to fear of judgement and feelings of guilt and inadequacy. Specific mothers’ groups for women with SUD may provide a biopsychosocial approach to SUD treatment and facilitate greater healthcare access. This study examines the experiences of women and health care providers involved in a mothers’ group for substance using women in Sydney, Australia.

Aims and Methods: The study examined the experiences of participants in, and providers of, a mothers’ group designed specifically for women with SUD and lead by a multidisciplinary team. Two existing qualitative data sources were analysed to examine staff and consumer perceptions of the mothers’ group. One study involved qualitative interviews conducted with 38 healthcare professionals involved with women with SUD. The other study aimed to provide an understanding of drug using women’s health care engagement and involved interviews with 13 women and 12 healthcare providers. NVivo was used for thematic coding using deductive and inductive codes.

Key Findings: The analysis identified four themes: (i) positive engagement with healthcare, (ii) ability to provide childcare in an informal setting, (iii) the provision of education and parenting skills and (iv) opportunity for harm reduction. The study found that both healthcare workers and women valued the relaxed, safe, non-judgmental environment the mothers’ group provided which enabled a more flexible and casual way for women to engage with health and community services as well as inferred a sense of trust in the system. The mothers’ group also delivered an additional avenue for early intervention or harm reduction by providing a safe place for women to talk about their treatment progress and to raise any concerns. This outlines the importance of a mothers’ group specifically for women with SUD, particularly regarding healthcare access for both mother and child and managing the challenges of nuanced harm reduction messages in the context of parenting.

Conclusions: The multi-faceted aspect of the mothers’ group allowed support to be provided at a time when these women are extremely vulnerable. The playgroup was found to facilitate ongoing contact with healthcare services and enhanced social connections for the women. It is a unique environment highly suitable for this group of women.

Implications for applicability/transferability, sustainability, and limitations: Whilst these findings provide insight into consumer and staff experiences, we have relied on secondary data and therefore specific aspects about the mothers’ group may have been missed. Interviews explicitly about the mothers’ group were not possible as the group has been on pause since March 2020 due to COVID19.

 

How to Cite: Day CA, Moensted ML, Coupland H, Braude R, Reid SE, White B. Examining the benefits of an Australian mothers’ group specifically for women with substance use disorders: a qualitative analysis. International Journal of Integrated Care. 2022;22(S3):473. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/ijic.ICIC22248
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Published on 04 Nov 2022.

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