The Princess Royal Maternity's consultant obstetrician Dr Mary Hepburn heads a unit which caters to women who suffer from social problems and need help through their pregnancy. Several of these women suffer from cocaine addiction. The women concerned are usually frank and open about their addictions, as they are more concerned about the baby in their womb. Healthcare work such as this caters mostly to self-inflicted illnesses.
There are also women who suffer from multiple problems, and drugs are only a small part of this. The unborn baby may well be adversely affected if the lifestyle of the mother is not corrected. The baby will not be affected by drugs like cocaine unless they are consumed in large quantities, while drugs like valium, or heroin will result in withdrawal symptoms. Heroin addiction by the mother results in the baby being underweight or premature. Babies can also be affected by the smoking of their mothers.
The mothers need to be stabilized before being encouraged to quit their addictions. It is not possible to give up a drug addiction abruptly, and substitutes like methadone are usually given in the early stages for those who use opiates. The social workers of the clinic also contribute towards the childcare, housing, and relationships of the mothers.