The impacts of substance abuse on pregnancy have been a subject of many qualitative and quantitative studies. A great number of research works have been dedicated to the description of the complications that can arise due to drug addiction, for instance, outcome of delivery, health of the mother and newborn, postpartum depression and so forth (Stimmel, 1982). Nonetheless, this question still remains vital for health care professionals. Prior to selecting research methodology, it is necessary to take into consideration such criteria as maturity of the concept, which is to be analyzed, and the nature of the problem; these criteria influence the choice of research strategies.
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First, it is of the crucial importance to determine whether this issue has been thoroughly examined. If there is a vast amount of information available for the research, we can employ classic literature review (Morse, 1995). This technique of collecting data will enable spare much efforts. The benefit of this approach is its time-efficiency and comprehensiveness. Nonetheless, it should be pointed out that many studies which had been carried out earlier can become dated; their findings can even be discredited. This is why this research should not rely only on literature review. Apart from that, it should be borne in mind that the consequences of substance abuse are very diverse: both physiological and psychological and there are many specific aspects which have not been fully discussed. Judging from that, we can formulate the major research question: to examine the impacts of substance abuse on physiological and mental health of both mother and child.
For this purpose several qualitative methods can be used. In the vast majority of cases, they are based on observation and the description of persons behavior, feelings and attitudes. Unstructured interview can be of great assistance in this research. It can get deep insights into the experience of would-be mothers, who are dependent on drugs. In particular, it is of the crucial importance to focus on such parameters as the subjects attitude towards pregnancy and motherhood, her unborn child etc. Furthermore, interview will allow us to analyze womans physiological state. However, this research method has several significant drawback, namely participants may be reluctant to answer questions of the interviewer. Secondly, they may deliberately distort facts; therefore, the information gathered in this way can be invalid (Morse, 1995).
The second qualitative method of collecting data is the study of documentation, for example, medical reports or medical history. Its main advantage is unobtrusiveness. The thing is that many pregnant mothers are not willing to talk about future delivery or their daily experiences. Given the fact that they suffer from drug addiction, conversation with the interviewer can be even stressful and hurtful for them. Apart from that, documentation is immensely beneficial because it relies on the knowledge and observations of health care professionals. Yet, this approach cannot be always adopted because private documents are frequently inaccessible. In fact, this entails the disclosure of medical secrecy, which is a blatant violation of medical ethics (Sugarman & Sulmacy, 2001). Thus, we may utilize these resources only if the permission of the partakers is given.
Finally, the most widespread qualitative strategy is observation. In this case, we can speak about participant and direct observation. This first type demands close interactions with the subjects. But, it is rather difficult to cope with such a task because mothers suffering from substance abuse are often extremely reticent (Stimmel, 1982). They may be disinclined to communicate with any person, except their practitioner. As a rule observation is very effective only when the sample population is not aware of being observed. But it is contrary to standards of psychological as well as medical research, because each subject must be informed about the purpose of study, its stages, and implications. Without this consent, this investigation will be illegal and its findings will be discredited.
The ethical norms and standards impose rather rigid restrictions on this study. One of them is privacy concern. Certainly, the identity of the participants will not be revealed but some of them will refuse to take part only because they fear intrusion into their personal life. In addition to that, we should not overlook the risks that these women can take. Pregnant mothers are extremely vulnerable; every incautious word, phrase or gesture can distress then. Drug addicts can be even more vulnerable therefore the research is morally and scientifically permissible only if a mothers mental state is absolutely stable (Stimmel, 1982). Prior to starting any procedures, we need to make a very careful health assessment. Otherwise, this may lead to great perils for her and her baby. Hence, this study must be based on close collaboration with obstetricians and therapists.
The accuracy and comprehensiveness of this work will strongly depend on effective use of research techniques (literature review, interview, study of documents and observation) and on the subjects readiness to collaborate. The limitations are also connected with ethical principles (privacy and consent of the sample population) and medical considerations, namely the risks for the mother and newborn born child. The findings can be utilized for the prevention and treatment of psychological illnesses, which these women can have.
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Morse. J. Field. P (1995). Qualitative research methods for health professionals. Sage.
Stimmel. B (1982). The Effects of maternal alcohol and drug abuse on the newborn. Routledge.
Sugarman. J. Sulmacy D (2001). Methods in medical ethics. Georgetown University Press.