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Drug Babies: The Youngest Victims of Addiction
Written by Nicole Porter
Last updated on November 14, 2013 @ 10:29PM
Created on November 14, 2013 @ 6:08PM


The sound of a baby’s first cry is a beautiful thing; however, for some babies, that cry lasts longer, and has a much deeper, darker meaning. 


"Babies cry, a lot," describes Dr. Wanda Hembree, UHC Obstetrics & Gynecology.


What we’re talking about is babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome, or in more common terms, babies born with symptoms of withdrawal. 


"These babies are typically a little bit more fussy, they're a little bit more inconsolable, they may have some feeding problems," said Dr. Alicia Maddix, UHC Pediatrics.
"They'll get excoriations or scrapes, they scratch so hard. They have a lot of anxiety and they don't like to be touched," said Dr. Hembree. 
"Tremors and they can even possible seize," adds Misty Harlow, UHC Labor & Delivery Unit Nurse Manager.


These symptoms can last for days, weeks even. Sometimes, the babies are sent home on non-pharmacological treatments for months.


This is more of a problem than you may realize. About 13,000 babies are born yearly with NAS. Harrison County ranks number one in the state per capita for mothers-to-be who test positive for some type of drug, at some point in their pregnancy. In reality, about 70 to 80 percent of the mothers-to-be at United Hospital Center fall into that category. The good news is that not all of these babies are born with NAS.


"Most of them will tell me, right out, that they're doing it,"  said Dr. Hembree.


She says, that’s a good thing because they can get the moms on the right track. This often includes getting them enrolled in some type of treatment program.


"The babies don't do well if they stop cold turkey. The babies can have seizures, they can die in the pregnancy," said Dr. Hembree.


Once these babies are born, their urine and first bowel movement are tested. Then their abstinence score is rated every four hours. This means the doctors and nurses check for sneezing, yawning, sweating and respiratory rate. The higher these numbers are, the higher the chances of withdrawal in the baby. Treatment for this problem usually begins within two to three days.


"We have to give them morphine," said Dr. Hembree. 
"Breastfeeding for an addicted baby is better. It helps them transition through that withdrawal period," said Lee Ann Romeo, UHC Childbirth Educator and Lactation Specialist.
What experts want out there is that this all can be preventable.
"Seek treatment. Immediately. When you find out you're pregnant," said Harlow.



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Comments (1)
Nov 14, 2013 at 6:47 PM
Maybe they should stop assuming every young mother IS on drugs. I had the most horrible experience giving birth at UHC, and if I ever decide to have another child that will be the last place I go. I gave birth last year to a completely healthy, 10lb baby girl. She didn't cry much but she did sneeze a few times the first night. One of the nurses then came in my room that morning accusing me of being on drugs because my baby was sneezing. I was not and have never been "on drugs" , but just because I'm not the cookie cutter version of a mother that people around here think one has to be the nurse automatically accused me of being on drugs. The next night this same nurse "lost" my pain medication somewhere between point A and my room. Horrible experience.
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