Programming Connection

The H.E.R. Pregnancy Program 

Edmonton, Alberta

Lessons Learned

  1. All women have the potential to be healthy, loving parents: If street-involved pregnant women are given hope and supported to access services, they can be healthy and loving parents. Most women in the program keep their children and go on to become healthy parents.
  2. Advocacy work is critical to support women in navigating the child protection system: Many women have had traumatic experiences with child protection services and face discrimination within the system. It is critical to support women to be heard, advocating for their rights and accompanying women as they navigate the child protection system.
  3. Healthy mothers lead to healthy babies, breaking cycles of intergenerational trauma: Separating mothers from children can be traumatizing and perpetuate cycles of oppression. It is essential to focus on the health and healing of mothers because this is deeply connected with the health of babies, families and communities in both the short and long terms.
  4. It is critical to educate health and social service providers on how to work more supportively with pregnant women who use substances: Pregnant women who use substances face a great deal of stigma within health and social services, which can prevent them from engaging with services. Service providers may not be familiar with harm reduction and can take a punitive approach rather than supporting and empowering pregnant women to achieve their health goals. Education for service providers is critical so they can work more effectively with this population.
  5. Street-involved pregnant women benefit from system navigation and accompaniment: Street-involved pregnant women have often experienced stigma and discrimination from service providers, which prevents them from engaging in care. Many women have had a traumatic life and experienced sexual and domestic abuse. Physical examinations and other health services can be triggering. System navigation and accompaniment services enable women to access services with a supportive advocate.
  6. Pregnant women require specialized harm reduction services: Pregnant women who use drugs may not access harm reduction programs out of fear that child welfare services will be alerted and/or fear that they may face discrimination within these programs. Harm reduction services need to create specialized programs, policies and approaches to ensure they are accessible and supportive to pregnant women.
  7. It is important to offer culturally safe health, family and parenting services: Health and parenting are culturally specific. Some Indigenous pregnant women may prefer culturally specific services. All women require health and parenting services that respect their culture.
  8. Mobile prenatal monitoring is an important engagement tool: Mobile prenatal services can be an effective engagement tool for women who can then be linked with trauma-informed and harm reduction services.