|Newborn child, seconds after birth. The umbilical cord has not yet been cut. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Learning that you are expecting a baby is usually exciting news for both parents who look forward to experiencing a pregnancy or a forthcoming adoption. This is not to say that the prenatal experience is not filled with questions and concerns about the well being of the new baby. It is natural to try to learn as much as one can about eating right, exercising, planning for a safe home environment to welcome the new baby. In short, the future mothers and/or fathers try to be prepared for every eventuality. But what about the expectant mother who is addicted to opiates? How does she prepare for the arrival of the innocent baby who undoubtedly will be born addicted to opiates? For that matter, how do health care providers and society cope with the innocent victims who are born that way?
This past May we wrote that the number of babies being born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) has tripled between 2000 and 2009. These babies are born addicted to opiates. Additionally, mothers using opiates at the time of delivery grew five-fold during the same period of time. Since May the media has tried to get a clearer picture of this health care crisis. Understanding what is at stake for the addicted mother and the soon to be born baby is important for the mother, the extended family and the community.
When one learns about this health care crisis it is easy to conclude that an obvious solution is for the addicted woman to simply quit using opiates as soon as she learns she is pregnant. It may surprise you to know that according to an NBC News Rock Center report:
“There are no easy answers for pregnant addicts. Even if they want to get off the drugs quickly, doctors advise them not to. Going cold turkey could cause them to miscarry. Instead, the women are switched from the painkillers they are on to methadone or buprenorphine, drugs that keep them stable and help curb their cravings. Unfortunately, these drugs can also cause severe withdrawal symptoms in newborns.”
Here are some points to consider:
- More than 13,000 babies a year are born in the United States addicted to prescription painkillers.
- These babies can seem normal at birth, but within a few days they start displaying symptoms that include severe shaking, tremors, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating and irritability.
- These babies usually remain hospitalized for weeks and sometimes months, at an average cost of $50,000 per baby – according to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
To get a clearer and more graphic understanding of what awaits these babies, the innocent victims who are born that way, watch NBC’s Kate Snow’s report.
If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can also see it here.
These babies are innocent victims. It will take years of study and research to ascertain what long term effects they may have to deal with for being born that way.