Expanding addiction services for pregnant and post-natal women is an action in the national drugs strategy Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery. Key to this is expanding the role of drug and alcohol liaison midwives across all maternity networks.
Pregnant women who use drugs (mainly opioids or methadone) have complex medical and social needs and are at increased risk of having babies with low birth weight (and the likelihood that the babies will require neonatal intensive care). More recently, there are growing concerns about alcohol use during pregnancy, including foetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
There are three drug liaison midwives in community addiction services in CHO 6, 7 and 9 who work with the maternity hospitals in the Dublin region (Rotunda, Coombe Women and Infant University Hospital and The National Maternity Hospital). The midwives work in special clinics in the hospitals and link in with community addiction services. They support pregnant opioid-dependent women throughout their pregnancy and for six weeks post-natal. An assessment of the drug midwife service found that it built effective working relationships between drug-dependent pregnant women, obstetric services and drug treatment services.
In line with action 20 in the national drugs strategy, the Department is supporting the HSE to expand the provision of drug and alcohol liaison midwives in community addiction services and maternity networks across the country. Two drug and alcohol liaison midwife posts are currently being recruited in CHO 3 & 4 in conjunction with South South East and University of Limerick maternity networks. Funding was approved for 2 additional posts in CHO 1 & 8, as part of the Saolta (North West) and Midlands maternity networks in Budget 2020.
I am committed to ensuring there is national coverage of drug and alcohol liaison midwives across all the maternity networks. To achieve this, I am seeking additional funding for two posts in CHO 2 & 5, to work with the Saolta and South South East maternity networks (with particular focus on Galway and Waterford).
The HSE National Women & Infants Health Programme is responsible for driving the implementation of the National Maternity Strategy Creating a Better Future Together 2016 - 2026. The Programme has committed to reviewing the requirement for specialist medical social workers for each maternity network.