Babies Born With Drug Addiction Can Be Treated At WCA

Every 25 minutes, a baby suffering from opioid withdrawal is born in the United States, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

This issue has not passed over Jamestown, unfortunately, as WCA Hospital officials confirm that there are cases of infants suffering withdrawal in the area. When the mother of an infant has used drugs during her pregnancy, it can result in a withdrawal syndrome called neonatal abstinence syndrome.

Donna Barber, Maternity Care Center nurse manager, said she does see cases of infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome. Depending on the severity of the withdrawal symptoms, it is determined by a doctor whether the infant can be treated at WCA Hospital or whether the infant needs to be transported to another facility.

“There are cases throughout the community where babies are affected,” Barber said. “Anytime a mother has a drug addiction, the infant is impacted. We have many (cases) we would know ahead of time because the mother may be in a treatment program.”

After a infant is born, they are watched for withdrawal symptoms. An opioid withdrawal scoring tool is used to determine the level of withdrawal the infant is experiencing, and rates symptoms such as tremors, muscle tone, GI disturbances and others. Points are assigned due to the observed symptoms.

“Based on the system, it is determined if the baby can be treated here,” Barber said.

If the infant can be treated in at WCA, many things are done to help treat the infant such as dimming the lights, encouraging rest periods after feeding and maternal contact, among other options.

“Part of that is skin-to-skin contact,” Barber said. “We encourage those moms to breastfeed as we do all mothers, which is an evidence-based practice from the American Academy of Pediatrics.”

A small amount of drugs is passed from the mother to the child in the milk, however that can help wean the infant off the drugs.

From the time of birth, the staff is helping to get the mother and baby ready for discharge. In the case of a baby born with Neonatal abstinence syndrome, the process can include the help of the case management team.

Sometimes, a baby born with neonatal abstinence syndrome may have to stay in the hospital longer. Barber said it depends on the circumstances.

“It depends on the severity and how the baby is doing,” she said. “We do recommend that they follow up with their pediatrician within those next few days for continued care.”

There is also an effort made before the baby to get the mother  into chemical dependency programs if she is struggling with a drug addiction. However, with pregnancy, the treatment must be handled carefully because what could normally be done for a woman is not the same as what can be done for a pregnant woman.

“With pregnancy, there are two people you are thinking about,” Barber said, adding drug-addicted pregnant women are referred to chemical dependency programs for pregnancy. “Things have to be handled differently.”

She said she has also seen cases of mothers being referred into these programs, and their providers work with them for the best results. Barber said it is important for patients to have an honest discussion with their doctors when it comes to situations such as these because often, the doctor knows the patient best. However, if a patient does not have a doctor, WCA Hospital is ready to help.

Linda Johnson, Marketing and Public Relations director, said WCA treats any patient who comes through the door regardless of circumstances.

“If you need help, we’re here,” Johnson said. “There are resources locally if (a person) is having a drug problem.”

The hospital has a 24-hour phone line for their inpatient chemical dependency unit which will refer the patient to the care they need.

Barber said it is never too late or too early to seek assistance for a drug problem.