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Substance Use & Pregnancy
BC Women's Hospital & Health Centre Fir Square Combined Care Unit program is the first in Canada to care for substance-using women and substance-exposed newborns in a single unit. The program helps women and their newborns stabilize and withdraw from substances, keeping mothers and babies together whenever possible and continuing to provide care from antepartum to postpartum and between hospital and community.
Women at Fir Square have access to counseling and instruction to enhance critical life skills, parenting techniques, and coping mechanisms. Babies receive specialized care that meets their needs if withdrawing from prenatal substance exposure to ensure the healthiest possible start. Babies room in with their mothers on the ward.
The multidisciplinary team of physicians, a senior practice leader, nurses, a social worker, an addictions counsellor, a nutritionist and a life skills/parenting counsellor provide the care. This team assists substance-using pregnant and early-postpartum women achieve an optimum health to minimize the effects of alcohol, drugs, malnutrition, and neglect on themselves and their infants.
- Reduce substance use and related risky behaviours that cause harm to women and their newborns
- Improve perinatal outcomes, including increased infant birth weights; improve growth and development; reduced incidence of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Neonatal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS/NAS) babies, HIV+ babies, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
- Increase the percentage of mothers who are able to safely retain custody of their babies after birth and throughout the child's early years by improving parenting skills and understanding of safe home environments, and gaining confidence with mother and infant interactions and play.
- Increase the numbers of women seeking treatment and their readiness to enter treatment.
- Increase access to medical services for substance-using women.
BC Women's Fir Square Combined Care Unit has five antepartum and six postpartum beds for women wishing to stabilize or withdraw from drug use during pregnancy. There is also a centralized nursery for babies in need of specialized treatment.
The philosophy of care is one of harm reduction. The aim is to help reduce substance use and risky behaviors that can cause harm to mothers and their babies. Mothers and their babies are supported to safely stay together after they leave hospital, and help them to gain confidence with parenting.
Alcohol and drug counseling, assessment and support as well as a referral service is offered as needed.
Working within a model of woman centered care, women participate and guide every aspect of their care and discharge planning.
- Caring, non-judgmental support
- Assistance with finding housing
- Referrals to community services as needed
- Access to medical care
- Parenting groups
- Recreational and music therapy
- A First Nations Advocate available
- Spiritual Care
Women and their babies are kept together on the ward, and women learn to care for their baby if the baby is withdrawing.
Fir Square is located at BC Women's Hospital
4500 Oak Street, Vancouver.
Call 604-875-2229 and ask for the charge nurse.
There is a weekly outpatient clinic on Thursday afternoons from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The doctors at this clinic are able to provide methadone.
Women may self refer, and lack of a physician, ID or medical card is not a barrier to attending the clinic.
For the Clinic, women may self refer - call 604-875-2160.
Physicians wishing to refer a women may call the Perinatal Addictions Team through paging at 604-875-2161, or they may call Jill Mahy, Senior Practice Leader, at 604-875-2926, or Fir Square directly and ask for the Charge Nurse at 604-875-2229
PartnershipsWe work in close partnership with community agencies such as the Sheway Downtown Eastside program providing support and prenatal care to pregnant substance-using women and women with children up to 18 months of age, the Ministry for Children and Family Development, and the alcohol and drug treatment system.
Research & EvaluationEvaluation is ongoing. Research is looking at three month outcomes.
The physicians and staff are available as a resource and for consultation and education in your community.
BC Women's Hospital
4500 Oak Street
Vancouver, BC V6H 3N1