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Friday, October 21, 2011

Babies Dependent on Opiates in Maine

It is well known that whatever a pregnant woman consumes, the baby also “consumes”. This is why people typically refrain from drinking and smoking while pregnant. However, as more and more people are being prescribed prescription opiates, more and more babies are being born with the drug in their system causing withdrawal symptoms that can be fatal in some cases. The state of Maine has seen a huge surge in the number of babies being born dependent upon opiates of one form or another.

More than 570 babies were born in Maine in 2010 to mothers who used prescription painkillers, according to The Portland Press Herald. Apparently that number has tripled over the last six years. Newborns whose mothers used opiates during pregnancy experience withdrawal symptoms, requiring weeks of hospital treatment, often with small doses of methadone or morphine administered daily. According to the article, the average cost to treat each baby is $25,000.

For those mothers who went through drug and alcohol treatment during the pregnancy and were given methadone or Suboxone, their babies often require much less medical help after birth and get to go home much sooner.

Women who use while they are pregnant are much more likely to miscarry, or to give birth prematurely to babies with higher birth defect rates, according to the article. Stopping “cold turkey” during pregnancy is extremely dangerous, the uterus can twitch and contract, putting the pregnancy in danger, notes Dr. Mark Brown, a neonatologist at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.

Prescription drug use and pregnancy do not mix; addicts who determine they are pregnant should seek help immediately in order to protect their child from a host of medical problems.

At the University of Maine, Marie Hayes is studying the effect of opioid withdrawal on babies’ brains.

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