The 5 Ps: Warning Signs that An Expectant Mother May Have Abused Alcohol During Pregnancy

Tracy Whitney


Asking a pregnant mom about prenatal alcohol exposure feels like an urgent question to you, but it also is likely to put the expectant woman on the defensive, especially if you are still new to the relationship. What are the warning signs that an expectant mother may have abused alcohol or drugs during her pregnancy? How do you get those hard conversations started to be able to ask?

5 P's of assessing risk for prenatal alcohol and drug exposure, while building an honest open relationship with an expectant mother.

Hopeful adoptive parents want to know as much as they can about the baby they hope to adopt. Expectant moms wish to present the best version of themselves when meeting with adoption professionals or prospective parents. Navigating the start of a relationship will require some thoughtful and respectful forays into the expectant mother’s life.

Remember the Goal of Your Conversations

Questions about a mother’s underlying health conditions, mental health history, and substance use or alcohol abuse can be overwhelming at a matching meeting or when you join her for a prenatal visit. No one wants to sit through those appointments on edge. The goal of these conversations is to craft an honest, healthy relationship for the coming child. As much as you want to know the most you can possibly know about the potential risks to the unborn child, it is hard to form a relationship if the expectant mother feels judged for her choices.

Get to Know Her – and Her Risk Factors

To help you get to know this expectant mother, her life goals, and her story – yes, including her pertinent health history, Dr. Dana Johnson recommends what he calls The 5 Ps as both an assessment of risk and as a conversation builder.

The goal of these conversations is to craft an honest, healthy relationship for the coming child.

What Are The 5 Ps?

  1. What are her Parents’ struggles? – Does the expectant mom’s family of origin have significant mental health or substance challenges? Is there a history of addiction or substance abuse?
  2. Do her Peers struggle? – Are her friends dealing with excessive drinking or drug use? Is she living in an environment in which those behaviors are the norm? Is her environment safe in light of her peers?
  3. Does the expectant mother have Past difficulties with use? – Did she start drinking at a young age? Was there any drug use or abuse? Did she seek treatment?
  4. Is her Partner using or abusing substances? – Is the expectant mother in a relationship with a partner who is using drugs or alcohol regularly? Does that relationship have a component of addiction to it?
  5. Has she used alcohol or drugs during the Past month? – If she has, what did she use? How much? How often?

Use the 5Ps as a Relational Tool.

Talking about these issues with the expectant mother can help you understand her background and what risk factors for prenatal alcohol exposure might exist. Remember that this is likely a brand new and complicated season for her. Use the 5 Ps to assess the warning signs for alcohol or drug abuse during her pregnancy. Even if the risk for prenatal exposure turns out to be pretty low, these can also be helpful questions to ask while when building a relationship with this person who might be in your life forever.

Image Credits: Leonid Mamchenkov; bizmac

07/10/2020 | by Tracy Whitney | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 0 Comments

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