From pregnancy to parenthood

A study of pregnant women with a problematic alcohol or drug use


The purpose of this PhD-project is to examine how women with a problematic substance use experience their transition from pregnancy to motherhood. PhD-student Line Helland Boelskifte will examine whether the women become abstinent during pregnancy and if they remain abstinent after birth. In the project, she will furthermore explore which factors the women experience as significant to their substance use, including their wishes and needs for family treatment and the importance of their relation to professionals at family treatment facilities.


In Denmark, there is a political and professional focus on pregnant women with problematic substance use and their children. The children are considered an at-risk target group because prenatal substance exposure can result in developmental deficits including foetal alcohol syndrome involving characteristic facial features, central nervous system damage and growth deficiency. As a preventive effort, different family treatment facilities have been established for pregnant women with substance use, where the professionals follow the women during their pregnancy and support them in reducing or ending their substance use.

The study

In the PhD-project, Line Helland Boelskifte examines how pregnant women with substance use are met and followed at different family treatment facilities as well as the political and legal context for policy and treatment approaches to pregnant women with substance use. The project will explore themes such as:

  • Which factors do the women and professionals respectively consider essential in supporting women to become abstinent during pregnancy, and remaining abstinent after the birth of their child?
  • To what extent do the women’s wishes and needs for a family treatment program correspond with the aims and conceptions of the professionals?
  • How do the women perceive their relation to the professionals in relation to the status of their substance use?

Methodically, the PhD-project will be based on a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods using survey, interviews and analysis of policy papers and reports on pregnant women with substance use.

The project begins at the 1st of February 2019 and ends at the 31st of January 2022.


The PhD-project is funded by the BSS Graduate School, Aarhus University.