Maternal-fetal attachment in pregnant women who use illicit drugs.

Carol Shieh, Melva Kravitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To explore cognitive, affective, and altruistic dimensions of maternal-fetal attachment in pregnant women who use illicit drugs. DESIGN: Content analysis with deductive and inductive coding methods was used to uncover common themes in each dimension of attachment. SETTING: A prenatal clinic of a tertiary medical center in the northeastern United States. PARTICIPANTS: Forty pregnant women. Inclusion criteria were the following: used illicit drugs after the last menstrual period, had felt fetal movement, and could read and speak English. Women in methadone treatment programs were excluded. RESULTS: Knowing the baby's characteristics and health through fetal movement, acknowledging the fetus as an individual with physical and emotional functions, and knowing the baby by relating the fetus to self and family members are the three major themes in cognitive attachment. Themes in affective attachment include mixing strong affection with guilt and viewing fetal movement as visual and tactile enjoyment but also discomfort. Common themes with conflicting feelings were salient in altruistic attachment, including feeling uncomfortable versus feeling worthwhile, viewing being pregnant as an incentive for lifestyle changes, battling with substance use and concern for fetal health, and alternating between uncertainty and hope in preparing for the baby's arrival. CONCLUSION: Maternal-fetal attachment is not a phenomenon that is present or absent, but a struggle manifested by guilt, concern, and uncertainty. Without proper treatment and counseling, many women struggle between illicit drug use and development of maternal-fetal attachment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)156-164
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of obstetric, gynecologic, and neonatal nursing : JOGNN / NAACOG
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics
  • Critical Care
  • Maternity and Midwifery

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