Patients with substance use disorder have every right to be pregnant and have children as much as anyone else. Some people look at it as being irresponsible but who are we to judge? In fact, our guest today explains how certain medications for substance use disorders could have played a part in improving the hormonal milieu of patients enough that a pregnancy might occur.

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On this episode, Duane speaks with Dr. Charles Schauberger, an OB/GYN and Addiction Medicine doctor who specializes in helping women struggling with substance use disorder go through pregnancy. This is an issue that doesn’t get talked about or thought about a lot unless someone is in this situation. 

A strong advocate for addiction treatment and compassionate care, Charles shares his story of getting into this specialty and how women dealing with substance use disorder can have a very healthy and successful pregnancy if they’re given the right support. 

His motivation for helping these women comes from recognizing the discrimination against this group of underserved people who have limited resources, not to mention the stigma associated with their drug use which makes their pregnancy even harder.  

Charles started practicing as an obstetrician in 1982 and has delivered about 5,000 babies over the course of his career. In 2008, he experienced burnout, left his clinical practice, and became a hospital administrator. After two and a half years, he went back into practice again because he missed patient contact.

Charles points out that patients are better off if they are stable in their treatment and recovery before achieving a pregnancy. However, he never talks down to anyone who gets pregnant while they’re still actively using. Instead, he uses it as an opportunity to help them achieve recovery.

In this episode, you will hear:

  • Charles’ journey into medicine
  • Some myths around pregnancy and substance use
  • The stigmas that pregnant women struggling with substance abuse have
  • Using MAT during pregnancy
  • The real treatment for recovery

Key Quotes:

[08:06] – “Patients who have substance use disorder, have every right to be pregnant and have children as much as anyone else.”

[10:28] – “I do suggest patients are better off if they are stable in their treatment and recovery before achieving a pregnancy. But I never talk down to anyone who gets pregnant while they’re still actively using.”

[11:53] – “There are a lot of women who fear that their babies are going to be taken away from them.”

[13:31] – “I’ve never seen a baby with that severe of withdrawal symptoms. If they have received care, and are carefully monitored, their babies will not suffer.”

[14:15] – “There have been theories that acute withdrawal from heroin or other opioids might be associated with greater risk of miscarriage or stillbirth. But for the most part, that’s probably not the case.”

[14:58] – “A dead mother leads to a dead baby so we really want to emphasize the importance of the use of those medications.”

[15:57] – “Alcohol is particularly a bad drug when we think of the effects of alcohol on developing fetuses and newborns. The fetal alcohol syndrome is a significant concern.”

[19:30] – “Getting a decent job, or, and building relationships with people that are in recovery, clearing up your legal issues so that you can put that behind you – those are the things that build recovery and are so important to people with substance use disorder.”

[34:37] – “If they can seek help early in pregnancy, we have a better chance to help them through some of the difficulties and make for a successful and safe pregnancy.”

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Supporting Resources:

Women and Substance Use Disorders Action Group of the American Society of Addiction Medicine