Social Work Perspectives on Working with Pregnant Women with Opioid Use Disorder


Social Work

Date of Paper/Work


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)

Type of Paper/Work

Clinical research paper


Jessica Toft


The incidence of addiction to opioids, more formally known as opioid use disorder (OUD), has skyrocketed in the U.S. in the last 25 years. Opioids are a class of narcotic drugs that include a range of synthetic prescription opioid pain relievers, including fentanyl. The number of pregnant women in the United States experiencing opioid use disorder (OUD) related to nonmedical use of prescription opioids has increased dramatically. Between 2000 and 2009, the number of child-bearing women with an OUD increased five-fold. Nonmedical prescription OUD affects vulnerable, young, low-income or poor women and their children, including White, African American, and Hispanic populations. Social workers are positioned to engage the health care and social services teams they work in to advocate for socially just and sensitive treatment of this population. This systematic literature review aims to highlight the need for further research with the following research question: “How does the literature reflect social workers’ perspectives on working with pregnant women with opioid use disorder (OUD)?” The 11 articles that met the inclusion criteria for this review included empirical studies of micro-level, practice based social work research, and mezzo- and macro-level policy and practice analyses. The most significant finding of this systematic literature review was the lack of the very literature the search set out to identify and review. Other findings centered around policies that criminalize pregnant women with OUD, provider bias and stigma, child protective service approaches to working with this population, the need for interdisciplinary teams to address their needs, and the importance of nonjudgment. A wide range of both quantitative and qualitative research is urgently needed to improve the experiences and outcomes of pregnant women with OUD in health care and treatment settings.


opioid crisis, opioid use disorder, pregnancy, mothers, social work practice

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.