A Canberra woman has admitted she took heroin while she was pregnant with her son, who died when he was three months old in 2017.
- No cause of death was determined, but an inquest is examining the circumstances around his death
- Mother admits to taking drugs while pregnant and later using methadone
- She says she was worried about losing custody if she sought help
The boy was found dead in his bed at the supported accommodation where the pair lived in June 2017.
The inquest into his death heard the woman fed the boy a bottle early in the morning, and when she woke hours later he was lying on his back unresponsive and could not be revived.
A post mortem could not find a cause of death, and, while there were no drugs in the baby’s system, a hair sample returned a positive test for heroin use — indicating he had been exposed to the drug.
The woman was quizzed about her drug use before she became pregnant.
The inquest heard she was on methadone.
“I was also taking heroin,” she said.
“I was using regularly … a couple of times a week.
“I may have smoked some marijuana.”
Counsel assisting the coroner Sarah Baker-Goldsmith quizzed the woman on whether she changed her habits after falling pregnant, asking “did you continue to use heroin regularly after you found out you were pregnant?”
“Yes,” the woman replied.
Mother already had four children placed in care
The woman agreed her rate of use stayed the same for some time after learning she was pregnant, but as time passed she started to worry she could lose custody once her child was born.
The woman was also asked if she thought about the effects her drug use might have on her baby.
“I did think about it,” she said.
“Just using heroin, the effect on him, his development.
“I knew it was important to keep taking methadone and I knew I had to get support.
“I had heard there could be birth defects … I had heard there could be problems in the pregnancy and labour.”
She also said she was aware her baby might suffer withdrawal symptoms.
The woman told the court she was nervous about seeking help because that involved interacting with the ACT’s Care and Protection service.
She said she had already had four children taken from her and placed in care.
“My impression was that they would swoop in hard and take [him],” she said.
“I was hoping to live in a supported environment with [him] and have custody of him.
“To just be a mum and bring him up.”
Earlier the court heard the woman had started to skip drug testing, and had returned samples that did not contain the methadone they should have.
The court was also told it would hear evidence about the advice given to the woman about breastfeeding, which she had done regularly.