Opioid dependent babies on the rise

According to the CDC, babies born dependent on opioid has tripled in the last 20 years. And not every case is the same. In the United States, 6 out of every 1,000 babies withdraws from opioids. And each case has a different severity. 

"We know if moms use other substances, so, things like antidepressants or smoking or drugs, that increases the risk that the baby will be affected. There's also genetic factors that go into that. So, it's very complicated," said maternal fetal medicaine physician Ana Tobiasd. 

There is also a higher risk if moms are using more toward the end of pregnancy. Every case is different, but there are a variety of symptoms these withdrawing babies experience. 

Kristen Maines, a registered nurse in Sanford's NICU said,  "A lot of babies are extremely irritable, so they cry all the time, so there have been shifts where I've been taking care of babies with withdrawal that we have held them the whole time"

Unfortunately, there isn't the manpower available with a shortage of nurses. Sanford does have a rocking program where people can volunteer to console the opioid dependent babies, but their jobs are stressful regardless.

"It is really difficult. because they do tend to need a lot more attention and a lot more one-on-one nurses in the NICU," said Maines. 

There's also a catch 22. The drug used to treat opioid addiction, methadone, can also cause withdrawl symptoms in babies. But Dr. Tombiasd is still in full support of the medication.

"I think it's a great thing. We know that these medications can cause those problems, but I would rather see that then moms using drugs off the street, obtaining them illegally," said Dr. Tobiasd.

And for a baby to be completely withdrawn from the opioids, it could take anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks.

We reached out to the addiction treatment center Heartview, who says they partner with Sanford hospital to coordinate services. And there have been around 12 success stories of moms going through treatment while pregnant. 

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