It’s common knowledge that partaking in drug use, especially long-term, is extremely harmful to our bodies. We are warned about the common side effects of both our mental and physical health, but we often neglect to acknowledge the harm is caused on others. Drug use during pregnancy puts the unborn child at extreme risk of complications and birth defects.
The Indiana Department of Health has been working to collect more accurate data on the condition known as Neonatal Withdrawal Syndrome/ Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome- and has covered more than 27 hospitals since they began in 2016.
Understanding Withdrawal Syndrome
Neonatal abstinence or withdrawal syndrome occurs when the fetus is exposed to harmful substances like opioids and abruptly stops receiving that exposure upon birth. While in the womb, the unborn child relies solely on the nutrients and substances ingested by the mother- and much like a grown person becomes addicted, so too can the child.
Intrauterine exposure to drugs and alcohol may result in congenital abnormalities, fetal growth restriction, neurological development issues, brain damage, SIDS, and complications during the birth itself.
Upon birth, the child must go through withdrawals-especially if drug use during pregnancy was heavy, and may suffer from breathing and heart problems. Attention has lacked over the years in terms of conducting trials and gathering specific information on the rates of drug use during pregnancy and the rate of neonatal withdrawal- but the estimated average was 15% of mothers using and 20-30% of those resulting in the syndrome (most commonly associated with opioids)
Indiana’s Data Findings
The Indiana Department of Health began testing in 2016 to find out more information about Neonatal Withdrawal Syndrome. Over the past 2 some odd years, their research expanded to over 27 hospitals. One representative of the study found that over 16 % of babies tested were positive for opioid exposure. The individual noted that Indiana is above the national average- but that statistics are most likely higher because not all babies were tested.
These results highlight the ongoing issue that many hospitals and nurse professionals failed to acknowledge in years past- children born in withdrawal. 16 being an average indicates in some high-risk locations- stats went beyond that. These statistics will continue to increase as the opioid crisis continues to explode and more babies will be at risk.
Last year alone over 100 million dollars was spent on treating NAS and in conjunction, prescription opioids increased as well. The Indiana Health Department claims that the cycle begins with the war on pain, leading to increased prescription, leading to addiction and abuse during pregnancy. In fact, 70% of those whose drug use resulted in NAS received their first opiate from a doctor or dentist.
The other factor noted by the health department was the specific rise in opiate use within the generation currently at high reproductive stages. Millenial use of opiates is considered to be a driving force of the opioid crisis, and pairing that with high fertility explains the rise in NAS syndrome.
Although doctors and nurses are trained in treating babies born with this syndrome, there is little research and less training on the issue as opposed to more commonly recognized birth complications.
The positive of the study is the amount of attention it’s receiving, hospitals and sober support organizations are realizing the magnitude of drug use during pregnancy, and hopefully this information drives more studies and more access to preventative measures and information.
If you or someone you know is struggling to overcome addiction and could possibly be pregnant, it is crucial to the health of the mother and the child that sobriety is sought after. Using drugs while pregnant has severe risks for the unborn child and in some cases can be fatal.
Recovery is possible, whether or not you’re pregnant and no matter how far along. Our professionally trained staff is equipped to handle treatment for those looking to get sober for the safety of their lives and their unborn child. We combine our clinical accuracy with general compassion for those seeking recovery to provide the best experience possible. Call us today to find out more and begin your journey to sobriety.