Pregnancy and substance use

A study of the social work with pregnant women who have a problematic alcohol or drug use


The aim of this PhD project is to examine how professionals at different programs within social work experience their encounter with pregnant women who use substances. PhD student Line Helland Boelskifte examines the professionals’ approach and relation to the pregnant women and the influence on their pregnancy and substance use. Furthermore Line Helland Boelskift explores discourses and terms about substance use in relation to pregnancy and coming motherhood.


In Denmark there is a political and professional awareness on pregnant women with a problematic substance use and their children. The health of the children are considered at risk because prenatal substance exposure can result in developmental deficits including foetal alcohol syndrome involving characteristic facial features, central nervous system damage and growth deficiency. Thus, when women with heavy substance use become pregnant a system of different programs within social work are evoked where professionals monitor the women during pregnancy and support them in ending their substance use and creating a stabile situation up to the birth of their baby.

The study

Methodically the PhD project will be based on a combination of interviews with professionals at relevant programs within social work and excerpts from pregnant women’s patient records from one of such programs. In the interviews PhD student Line Helland Boelskifte investigates the professionals’ narratives about their encounter and collaboration with pregnant women to gain insights into their aims, attitudes and actions in relation to their respective program. In the patient record excerpts she will be looking at discourses around substance use and the pregnant woman’s social situation as well as the relation between social situation and substance use.

The project commences in February 2019 and ends in November 2022.


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