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Blue Cross Norway: Urgent need for treatment options for pregnant women with substance addiction


25.09.2023 - The dangers of alcohol consumption during pregnancy have been highlighted again as concerns rise regarding fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Every year, on September 9th, the International FASD Day is observed to raise awareness about the perils of drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Organisations like Blå Kors (Blue Cross) emphasise the significance of treatment options for expecting mothers who struggle with addiction, particularly as it affects newborns and families.


Alcohol-related fetal damage

FASD refers to all health consequences a fetus may suffer due to the mother's alcohol consumption during pregnancy. This can manifest in physical, mental, and behavioural challenges and learning disabilities throughout the child's life. Beyond that, alcohol use during pregnancy can severely damage the fetus's central nervous system and inflict harm at the cellular level, impeding the development of vital organs. The resulting lifelong neurological disorders can be profoundly burdensome for the child.


Immediate medical assistance for pregnant women with substance addiction

Substance abuse during pregnancy can be extremely harmful to the fetus. Although most pregnant women avoid narcotics, some struggle with substance use and urgently need medical assistance. There's growing apprehension that such crucial support may be diminishing. Interestingly, while the type of substance abuse varies, most pregnant women with addiction still consume alcohol, resulting in babies born with FASD.


Most pregnant women in Norway heed advice against consuming alcohol during pregnancy. However, the lack of awareness about the risks associated with alcohol intake or where the mother suffers from alcohol addiction can lead to consumption during pregnancy. Hence, treatment options for these mothers are of paramount importance.


Some expectant mothers benefit from outpatient treatment and support, while others require more intensive, specialised multidisciplinary therapies. Blå Kors provides treatments specifically for pregnant women in Skien, Trondheim, and Haugesund, and each facility also offers continued care for families post-childbirth.

A decline in referrals for treatment of pregnant women with addiction

Blå Kors has recently observed a decrease in referrals from general practitioners for treatment options tailored for pregnant women and new parents. It remains uncertain whether this decline indicates a decrease in pregnant women grappling with addiction issues.


The societal and individual ramifications of pregnant women's lack of treatment options are so severe that they necessitate high prioritisation.


Blå Kors's Efforts and appeals

Blå Kors calls for improved knowledge and a better structure and organisation of healthcare services for pregnant women with addiction. These treatment options should be included in the upcoming prevention and treatment reform. They urge regional health enterprises to have adequate emergency spots and push for this need to be addressed immediately rather than waiting for the upcoming reform. Setting a political objective to reduce the number of children born with drug-induced injuries is also on their agenda.


Earlier this summer, Blå Kors communicated their concerns to the Health and Care Services Department. On August 28th, Dagens Medisin published an article in which Blå Kors's division director Anita Ellefsen, director Bjørn Vådal of Blå Kors clinic in Skien, and leader Jan Gunnar Skoftedalen of the Main Organization of the Substance Field expressed their concerns and called for executive action from Minister Ingvild Kjerkol.


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