Dr. Gary Emmett, Director of Hospital Pediatrics at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, recently wrote a two-part blog for Philly.com about opiate abuse during pregnancy, its effects on the unborn child, and the work being done to help affected families.
Some infants exposed to opiates during pregnancy may experience withdrawal, or Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) as the drugs wear off after birth. “In 2015, about 50,000 babies were exposed to opiates and at least 23,000 suffered from opiate-based withdrawal,” wrote Dr. Emmett.
In the 1970’s, Dr. Laura Finnegan founded the Jefferson Family Center, and dedicated her career to helping babies with NAS and their families find the treatment they needed. The Family Center, now known as the Maternal Addiction Treatment Education and Research (MATER) Program is supervised by Diane Abatemarco, PhD, MSW.
The work done by Dr. Abatemarco and others in the “baby-centered post-partum movement” is working. According to Dr. Emmett, “only 35 to 40 percent of opiate-exposed infants [now need] treatment instead of 50 percent. Increased breastfeeding itself gives the baby just enough of the mother’s drug to prevent withdrawal without making the child ill.”
Dr. Emmett notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new guidelines for prescribing opiate pain medicine, which will lower the supply.