Monstrous fears: Experiences of pregnancy and opiate use in Vietnam, and strategies for support

Joanna White, Pauline Oosterhoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Maternity for opiate users in Vietnam is challenging due to the criminalization of drug use, stigmatization, and poor specialist knowledge among health providers. This article outlines action research conducted among Vietnamese women who had experienced pregnancy while opiatedependent. Misguided fears that their baby would be a "monstrosity" drove some women to seek out abortion. For those who chose to continue with their pregnancy, communication with health professionals was poor and misinformation concerning advised maternal practices and newborn care was common. Often women made intuitive decisions; few attempted to go "cold turkey" and withdrew suddenly from opiates while pregnant, and most new mothers chose to breastfeed-a healthy choice-despite being advised against this. The study revealed the importance of support provided outside of state services and culminated in new information for female drug users and training materials for peer counselors. The participatory process by which these outputs were developed is outlined.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-19
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Drug Issues
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013


  • Female drug users
  • Government services
  • Opiate use
  • Pregnancy
  • Vietnam


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