Recognizing Harm: How Women Perceive the Impact of Prenatal Exposure on Their Own Children
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Given the known negative effects associated with prenatal exposure, it is imperative that babies presenting with symptoms are identified and receive treatment without delay. Women’s perceptions of how their child is affected by prenatal exposure likely impacts seeking and engaging with support services. However, little research has been conducted investigating the beliefs of women who used substances during pregnancy about the way that their children were impacted. The present study evaluates women’s concerns about their baby’s functioning, using a new measure. This measure, the Prenatal Exposure Concern for Functioning Scale (PECFS), identifies perceptions of baby’s current functioning and worries about future functioning. Analyses explore factors associated with increased concern. Findings suggest that women who used illicit substances during pregnancy generally report less concern for the current impact on their child than concern reported about future functioning due to prenatal exposure. Results also suggest that women who used the combination of methamphetamines and heroin report higher concern than women who did not use this combination of substances in pregnancy. These women could be exhibiting more concern for their babies due to compounding reasons. One reason could include cultural beliefs and stigmas associated with these two substances and the individuals who use them. These cultural beliefs could potentially impact a woman’s perspective on how her use of these substances affected her child.