Barriers to employment for drug dependent postpartum women.

Document Type


Publication Date



Nursing, Obstetrics & Gynecology

Journal Title

Work (Reading, Mass.)

MeSH Headings

Crime, Educational Status, Employment, Female, Humans, Opioid-Related Disorders, Postpartum Period, Return to Work, Social Stigma, Young Adult


BACKGROUND: Employment represents the key to independence for women, and equal opportunity has been an elusive goal. For women with substance dependence, employment is strongly linked to the ability to sustain recovery. Unfortunately, for postpartum mothers with substance use disorders, gender-based barriers are magnified. A case analysis is provided to illustrate the interaction of multiple barriers to employment success in one postpartum woman's experience.

OBJECTIVE: To elucidate the complex factors involved in return to employment for postpartum women being treated for substance use disorders.

METHODS: A review of the current literature on employment, substance use, and the postpartum period was performed. Themes identified in the literature were applied to analyze a representative case.

RESULTS: Postpartum women with substance use disorders face a variety of challenges to employment success. Lack of education and job skills are common barriers to successful employment of women in addiction recovery. These barriers may be complicated by emotional or logistical challenges, or related to external factors such as stigma and/or previous criminal history.

CONCLUSIONS: Assessment of employment history, marketable skills, and barriers should be an essential component of substance abuse treatment programs. Professionals working to increase employment opportunities for postpartum women with substance use disorders should be particularly aware of the multiple barriers they face and integrate employment assessment and skills training into the early stages of treatment programs.



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