Pregnancy can be a tumultuous time in a person’s life. When dealing with substance-use disorders, things get even harder.

"Motherhood looks like it's this peachy, wonderful piece. It's hard work," said Dr. Davina Moss, president and founder of Positive Direction and Associates, Inc.

Moss knows her way around pregnancy when it comes to those dealing with addiction.

"What we're trying to do is especially to empower them and to look at how we're able to educate them regarding how the substances that they are using have an effect on their child in utero," Moss explained.

Her trademarked Positive Direction program provides support and encourages moms to stay the course with medication assisted therapy. It’s not always easy to get them to take the first step though.

"What we have noticed is when moms come in they're very afraid," she said. "They're afraid of legal. They're afraid of other individuals in their family possibly finding out."

A recent study found overdose numbers among pregnant and postpartum women went up from 2018 to 2021. Among those aged 35-44, it tripled.

"We know that people who are pregnant and postpartum are in very vulnerable periods of their life," added Dr. Gale Burstein, the Erie County Department of Health commissioner. "If they're struggling with anything like substance use disorder, that makes them even much more vulnerable."

Burstein says these numbers aren’t shocking. They reflect increasing overdose numbers in general.

"A death of a pregnant person or a postpartum person is tragic, because it's not just one life, it's two lives," she said. "And it's really more than two lives because everybody has people around them that care for them."

That's why understanding that it’s safe to ask for help is important.

"They're not going to go to jail. They're not going to have their child removed from them. They're going to get the treatment and the care that they need and start on the path to recovery," said Burstein.

As time has gone on, many have realized that addiction is a disease.

"We need to really look at medication assisted therapy the same way we look at high blood pressure medication or taking medication for diabetes," said Moss.

Moss says doing that might help not just mom, but baby, too.

"If it is managed by a provider, and the mom is continuing with her relapse prevention strategies with counseling, and the positive direction model continues with the emotional coaching, we have found that the children have less symptoms for [...] neonatal abstinence syndrome or neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome," Moss explained.

With 79 successful births in her program across Western New York, she wants more people to find the success many of these patients have.

"Mothers are so proud of themselves," she said. "When you begin to value your life as a woman, you value your life with your child and everyone else begins to see that."

For those who aren’t ready to start the journey to recovery yet, officials do offer fentanyl test strips for free.

They also recommend that you never use alone. Have a sober companion with you, or use a program like "Never Use Alone" (877-696-1996). It has someone stay on the phone with you or call back regularly to check that you’re all right.