Partnering with recovery community centers to build recovery capital by improving access to reproductive health

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1 Scopus citations


Background: People with substance use disorders (SUD), especially opioid use disorder (OUD) have the highest rates of unintended pregnancies (80–95%) and report unmet reproductive health needs. Women of childbearing age have some of the highest death rates from opioids and are notably rising the most rapidly, and when pregnancy does occur overdose is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality. There are numerous gender-based health disparities and social determinants of health shaped by the distribution of power and privilege that influence the risk trajectories of people who can get pregnant or are pregnant with a substance use disorder (SUD). Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to describe how reproductive health is essential to recovery and building recovery capital for people who can get pregnant, (1) introduce a pilot implementation science study working with trained peer support coaches to promote reproductive autonomy in the community, and (2) make policy and advocacy recommendations relevant to the new reproductive health landscape in the United States. We will also describe the adaptation and feasibility of the initial pilot study where we partnered with a recovery community center to train peer recovery coaches to provide low barrier resources (contraception, pregnancy tests and prenatal vitamins) and referrals to health care. Methods: This initiative is the merging of best practices in recovery and community-based global reproductive health, to empower people with SUD who can get pregnant in an implementation science framework. The pilot study will last 3 months in each city and aims to (1) assess and describe the effectiveness of the training of local peer recovery coaches on the link between recovery capital and reproductive health, and (2) assess the feasibility, acceptability, appropriateness, scalability, sustainability, and uptake and reach of low barrier reproductive health resources (pregnancy tests, prenatal vitamins, and emergency contraception). In this paper we are only reporting the initial findings regarding adaptation and feasibility. Findings: Informed by qualitative interviews with stakeholders and participants, the method of contraception was adapted from injectable to emergency to meet the needs and context of the community with SUD. Early outcomes such as uptake and acceptability indicate that this is a feasible model with peer recovery coaches and recovery community centers, with the greatest uptake of emergency contraception and pregnancy tests. Conclusion: Considering recent policies limiting access to reproductive health, innovative community-based solutions are needed to engage and empower people who can get pregnant or are pregnant while in active drug use and in recovery. Providing low barrier reproductive health items by people with lived experience with SUD can serve as a valuable harm reduction model and improve recovery capital. Clinical Relevance: This is the first study to propose a methodology and context to implement a community-based study merging best practices in recovery with those in reproductive health with the potential to improve recovery capital and maternal/child health trajectories for people with SUD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)692-700
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Nursing Scholarship
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Dr. Hartley Feld would like to acknowledge professional and mentorship support as an associate in Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health (BIRCWH) and Translation of Research Interventions into Practice, Populations, and Policy Leadership (TRIPPPLe) at the University of Kentucky. All authors would like to acknowledge the support and vital partnership with Voices of Hope in Lexington, KY.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Sigma Theta Tau International.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing (all)


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