Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Nursing Science


drug abuse, nursing, Phenomenology, pregnancy, women


Qualitative methodology was employed to conduct a phenomenological inquiry describing the structure of the experience of being pregnant and using drugs. The purpose of the study was to explore the nature of women's experience and perception of the interaction, relationship, and intersection of contextual phenomena of lifestyle, pregnancy, and substance abuse. Data gathering and analysis was accomplished using guidelines provided by Spiegelberg and Van Manen. Eleven mothers voluntarily participating in a recovery program described their prior experience of being addicted and pregnant during 2 conversations with the researcher. Through transcript analysis of the first audio-taped interview, major and minor themes describing the phenomena emerged. During the second interview participants clarified and verified the findings of the study. Three expert readers reviewed transcripts for validation and further identification of thematic patterns. Major themes synthesized with minor themes were: (1) Experiencing pregnancy included welcomed, intentional pregnancy as a means to create or extend a family. Unintentional pregnancy was welcomed or unwelcomed. (2) Experiencing addiction and pregnancy was generally characterized by rationalization of drug use, acting "not pregnant", involvement in a chaotic lifestyle, experiencing pleasant and unpleasant fantasies about the baby, fantasizing that pregnancy would curtail addiction, and feeling guilt related to using drugs. (3) Experiencing self included extreme social and emotional isolation, mistrust of others, and difficulty managing emotional issues. Using phenomenological methodology, participant’s experiences were individually and collectively analyzed and integrated to produce the following composite structure of the universal experience of being pregnant and using drugs as discovered in this study; Being pregnant and using drugs is a physical, intrapersonal and interpersonal transforming experience that occurs within an isolative addictive lifestyle characterized by mistrust of others, risk-taking, deception, and self-deprecation. Use of drugs incurs feelings of guilt and self-hatred while paradoxically assuaging loneliness, and distancing and dissipating negative feelings. A pervasive lack of connectedness to and positive meaning of one's pregnancy manifests in the experience of bringing a child into the world not wholly welcomed. The findings in this study provide a beginning description of the meaning of the experience of being pregnant and using drugs.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access



Included in

Nursing Commons