Despite all the natural, home birth, and cloth diaper trends growing in popularity among mothers today, researchers are still seeing an increase in babies being born with symptoms of opiate withdrawal due to maternal drug use during pregnancy and at the time of delivery.
A study published in the Journal of American Medical Association, conducted by Dr. Stephen Patrick of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, showed the number of babies with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) tripled between 2000 and 2009, and the number of mothers using opiate-based drugs was five times higher than it was a decade ago.
Babies born with symptoms of opiate withdrawal have an increased risk low birth weight, respiratory complications, feeding difficulties, and seizures.
Research was not focused on pain medication given to women during delivery, but rather the habitual maternal drug use. Most neonate withdrawal problems have been tied to maternal opiate use, although other drugs have been implicated, the researchers wrote. According to the CDC, opiate painkiller-related sales and deaths quadrupled between 1999 and 2008. The study cited that about 16% of pregnant teens and 7.5% of pregnant women between 18 and 25 use illegal drugs. Opiate overdose mortality and dependence rates are highest among disadvantaged, young adults in rural areas, the study said.
In addition to the health risk to infants, the study shows that births for mothers using opiates are more costly to patients, hospitals and taxpayers. Deliveries and post partum care for mothers who use opiates increase in cost from $39,400 to $53,400 between 2000 and 2009, compared with a rise from $6,600 to $9,500 for average healthy births. And since the study showed that these mothers are more likely to be covered by state-sponsored Medicaid, those costs come from taxpayer pockets. The study also indicated that babies with NAS spend an average of 16 days in the hospital.
-Follow Elise Rambaud Marrion, @emarrion_cmn.