A scary but growing problem in the United States is the number of infants being born with opiates in their systems. New research shows that the number of babies born in Massachusetts with opiates in their system is more than triple the national rate and far higher than the number tallied by state officials.
As prescription opioid painkillers and heroin abuse continue to skyrocket all over the country, more and more women who are pregnant are giving birth to babies who are addicted to opiates. As a pregnant woman abuses opioids, the opiate is passes through the placenta to the baby in the womb. The placenta is the organ that connects the baby to its mother. Just as the mother is addicted to the drugs, the baby also becomes addicted to the drugs as well.
At birth, the baby is still dependent on the opiates. A baby being born addicted to illicit drugs because of the passing of the drugs onto them during pregnancy is known as neonatal abstinence syndrome. The baby will show signs of normal function at birth but from day 1 to day 3 is where the opiate withdrawal signs start to show. The baby will most likely run a fever and have similar symptoms as the mother. The mother if not treated by opiate replacement therapy like Methadone or Suboxone will too begin the withdrawal symptoms. The baby's symptoms may be fever, blotchy skin, diarrhea, excessive crying or high pitched crying, excessive sucking, hyperactive reflexes, increased muscle tone, irritability, poor feeding, rapid breathing, seizures, sleep problems, slow weight gain, stuffy nose, sneezing, sweating, trembling and vomiting. The bottom line is the baby goes through hell the first few days it is alive. Who would want to put their child through that suffering?
More and more doctors who are treating pregnant patients refuse to let them go through opiate withdrawal while pregnant. They believe that the stress that withdrawal puts on the body could be too tough on the mother and the baby. If the stress from withdrawal is too much, the mother could lose the baby. So instead of putting the life of the baby on the line, doctors will choose to put the mother on an opiate replacement therapy plan. The new trend is to use Suboxone and more doctors are shying away from methadone. The mothers are put on a strict opiate replacement therapy and has routine check ups every few days to monitor the babies progress. When the process is watched closely by a physician, the baby is is in good hands and has a good chance to live a healthy happy life. If the patient becomes too worried about being looked at as a bad mother and not putting the babies needs before their own, there could be dire consequences. Not being honest with your physician could really hurt the baby. If the doctors are aware of the issue from an early stage, they can make arrangements at birth for the baby so they can provide the best possible treatment and make the baby as comfortable as possible.