Rising more than five times in years past is the number of women addicted to prescription drugs and heroin. According to sentinelsource.com, “With increased opioid and heroin use, the number of babies born with severe opioid withdrawal symptoms has also spiraled, leaving hospitals scrambling to find better ways to care for the burgeoning population of mothers and newborns.”
It’s a sad fact that needs a solution. And the solution isn’t what you would think. Expectant mothers who are addicts should not try and stop drugs altogether. Doing so could cause a miscarriage. And trying to quit without medical aids could cause a relapse or fatal overdose. So these mothers are left desperately needing help, medical help. With a baby going through opioid withdrawal nearly every 25 minutes in this country, it’s time to address the issue.
The story reports that when Susan Bellone realized at 32 and six years into her heroin addition that she was pregnant, she rushed to the emergency room at Boston Medical Center in the city’s South End. “A specialized team of obstetricians, addiction medicine providers and counselors known as Project Respect has been treating pregnant drug users here for more than 30 years,” the story reports. Bellone, however, did not know this. She was lucky. And hopefully, other expectant mothers will be, too, as dozens of hospitals and clinics are hoping to provide specialized treatment for the rising number of pregnant addicted mothers and their newborn children.
For now, a federal law, The Protecting Our Infants Act, is in place, allowing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to “work with states to collect data on the prevalence of babies born with opioids in their bloodstream,” as the story reports. It also calls on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop recommendations for the best way to prevent and treat drug use during pregnancy.
Groups like the March of Dimes agree that opioid treatment meds are a must, but also want more research on the best method for treating opioid addiction during pregnancy.
Like Bellone, most women who come to Boston Medical Center for treatment do so early on in their pregnancy. The team there is seeing about 250 patients at any given time for the problem, a number that has tripled in the past 10 years.
Sadly, many of these mothers fear their soon-to-be-born child will be taken away from them, as Massachusetts requires hospitals to report any child born with opioids in their bloodstream. But the National Advocates for Pregnant Women are taking a stand for women who use during their pregnancy. Creating a safe environment for these women allows them to be open about using during their pregnancy, which allows them to get help. Knowing they could potentially have their child taken away if they ask for help could be a major deterrent in asking for help. “Women need to feel safe so they don’t have to hide their drug use when seeking prenatal care or not seek care at all,” says Farah Diaz-Telio, attorney with National Advocates for Pregnant Women.
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