The number of babies born addicted to heroin has quadrupled over the last 10 years. Their little legs shake uncontrollably, their vitals are compromised, they have trouble breathing and they are brought into the world addicted and suffering. Every 25 minutes a baby is born addicted to heroin or other opioids. Doctors are overwhelmed, nurses are running around and the medical system is up in arms with the need to get this issue under control. And while everyone flounders while trying to find a solution, there’s one thing just about everyone can agree on. The unborn and newborn child is an innocent victim of drug addiction and the opioid & heroin epidemic.
Statistics and Babies Born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome
The average stay for a baby born in opioid / heroin withdrawals is about 16 days. The cost for newborn babies born with NAS (Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome) is around $67,000 vs. around $3,500 of a baby born without NAS.
“The rate of babies born with NAS per 1,000 hospital births was 1.2 in 2000, 1.5 in 2003, 1.96 in 2006, 3.39 in 2009 and 5.8 in 2012. The rate of maternal opiate use per 1,000 hospital births was 1.19 in 2000, 1.26 in 2003, 2.52 in 2006, and 5.63 in 2009.”
Due to the increased number of babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, it’s critical to understand that heroin addiction and drug abuse does not just “stop” when a woman becomes pregnant. There are moral implications but because addiction is a disease and compromises the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, a person is not rationalizing consequence. In other words, a pregnant heroin addicted mother-to-be still sees feeding their addiction as their primary concern and isn’t worried enough about how it might affect their unborn child to seek addiction treatment or stop using drugs.
Addiction Treatment Options for Mothers To Be
Detox and rehab at a top addiction treatment center may be ideal for some pregnant women depending on their circumstances. Suboxone or Methadone may be effective addiction treatment options for mothers to be while she is pregnant to ensure the safety of her unborn baby while addressing and trying to control her addiction.
However, many women never make it to the front door of any treatment facility because of the severe shame and fear they feel. Note also that medicine assisted treatment options will likely still have an effect on their baby. Be sure to educate yourself about the potential risks and problems for pregnant women undergoing methadone or Suboxone.
Many women are terrified to tell anyone of their heroin and/or opioid addiction while pregnant. There is the fear of losing their baby, the public or medical shaming and the stigma of being pregnant while addicted. Many drug using pregnant women are distracted with the news of yet another heroin overdose, drug bust or addiction statistic and forget that not only are heroin/drug addicts suffering, but so are the babies born to them. So how can we encourage drug-addicted pregnant women to share their addiction with someone in the medical field in order to help their unborn babies?
Encouraging Pregnant Women to Get Addiction Help
A pregnant woman has to feel like she will not be judged, hated, stigmatized, shamed and alienated. Pregnant women get shamed for eating certain foods or for drinking one glass of wine let alone being addicted to heroin, opioids or other illicit drugs while pregnant. But in order for more pregnant women to step up and advocate for their unborn children, they have to feel safe while talking about their drug addiction and substance use issues. Family and friends of a pregnant woman therefore, should be gentle and let her know that they are here to help without judgment. Family and friends should encourage addiction treatment and drug rehab while gently reminding them about their own health and the well-being of their unborn child. Doctors, medical staff, counselors and recovery advocates are also not above receiving this advice. Regrettably, medical professionals and recovery experts can and often do still administer judgment which only increases the likelihood of a pregnant woman’s drug relapse.
Chanda Lynn’s Story of Drug Use While Pregnant
Pregnant women on drugs already feel ashamed, they already hate themselves, they already feel hopeless, helpless, depressed and lost. I know this because I was addicted to drugs while I was pregnant. I was hooked on prescription opioid painkillers. Not only was I prescribed Vicodin at 6 months pregnant, but I was also getting them off of the streets.
I was helpless, hopeless, depressed and lost. Each night I’d cry pleading with God to protect my baby while I swallowed another pill. I couldn’t stop. I didn’t know how to stop. I hated myself. What happened to my baby, you ask? What happened to me? How was I treated? My son was born with NAS, though miraculously his withdrawals were very mild and lasted about 4 days. Thankfully, he didn’t need any medication. This is honestly very rare and I credit it prayer and God’s grace.
I was treated the worst I had ever been in my life, even by all of the medical staff. I hate dredging this up, but I want people to understand what happened. The medical staff whispered about me, while I was in the hospital labor room. The one nurse was particularly nasty and mean to me. The doctor looked on me with hate, disgust and judgment.
My labor was 30 hours of hell because they would not put my epidural back in after it fell out. They pumped me full of Pitocin, which caused quadruple contractions with nothing to numb the pain. I felt like I was in hell.
Finally after 30 hours of labor they delivered my baby via C-section – but only because I begged them to and because I wasn’t dilated. Medical staff gave me nothing to numb the pain after the C-section was performed either. They wheeled me into a room and scoured and walked away. They wanted me to feel the fire, the pain and the consequences of my actions.
I get it now, not that I condone their behavior, but I understand because they understood nothing about addiction and what was happening to me and it caused them to act out with hate in their hearts for a woman who suffered from the disease of addiction. They had their pre-conceived opinions and judgments. I wish I could go back to that hospital now and tell them what that did to me mentally and emotionally, but because I understand both view points it’s probably a lost cause.
Chanda’s Advice to Doctors, Nurses and Medical Professionals Who Are Delivering the Child of a Pregnant Woman Who Suffers From Addiction
I want doctors to understand that a woman who is addicted while pregnant is not a low-life or a bad person. She is not inherently flawed. She is just lost, spiraling down in the throes of addiction.
If any addict needs help more than another, it would be the pregnant woman. Kindness and compassion can go such a long way, even so far as to save a baby’s life. Understand that a pregnant woman suffering from heroin and/or drug addiction will hang on to your every word. Thus, it’s crucial to approach her with care and understanding.
If the doctors, nurses and medical staff at the hospital all treated me with just a little kindness, my situation would have been very different. Instead, when I was about 6 months pregnant and I peed in the little cup they gave me for my check up at my gynecologist, I gave a urine sample filled with Vicodin and Dilaudid. The nurse came in and told me what they had found and that the doctor was going to “talk” with me about it. I was sweating and my anxiety went through the roof. I felt like I was having a heart attack.
When the doctor finally came in, she literally acted like she didn’t know a thing. She went on with a normal check-up and I was so confused. Why didn’t she say anything? Why didn’t she chastise me? Why didn’t she at the very least, offer me help? It wasn’t until the day after I had my baby when CPS (Child Protective Services) showed up in my hospital room, that I had realized why. They said they were sent by the doctor to take my son from me because I had tested positive for painkillers in my system on several different occasions.
I talked my way out of the CPS encounter because I had proven I was prescribed vicoden, but I still think about that. The doctor didn’t want to help me, she wanted to have my baby taken. I am perplexed at the thought of her never saying a word, still to this day.
At the end of the day, until more pregnant women with addiction who have gone through this step up and speak out, pregnant addicts won’t feel comfortable enough to get help.
Advice to the Addicted Mother – the Pregnant Woman Using Drugs
Pregnant women who suffer from a drug addiction problem are strongly advised to get addiction help before you deliver your baby. It’s not going to be easy, but not only is getting treatment crucial for the baby’s physical health and cognitive development, but he or she will be depending on you to be healthy and alert enough to properly care for them. Talking to your doctor or seeking help from an addiction counselor or top drug rehab facility is a great first step. It may be a difficult step but it will definitely prevent a lot more stress, worry, guilt or shame than you could ever imagine.
After the precious baby is born, living a clean life and being a good mother will be so much easier. Both you and your baby deserve addiction help and treatment in order to become the loving family you were meant to be. Let the day your baby is born be a day of joy and love. There are people out there that really do understand. There are people out there that want to help you. You just have to reach out your hand in order to realize that there is one waiting to take yours and help.
The world will judge you regardless of what decisions you make while you are pregnant and when you become a mother, all that matters is that you do what is best for you and your baby. Help yourself sleep at night. Hold your growing belly with excitement and joy, don’t short yourself of that experience.
Advice to Doctors and Medical Staff Delivering an Addicted Pregnant Woman’s Baby
Doctors and medical staff are rightfully upset, especially when they know they’re about to see yet another baby born in withdrawals shake and cry. But approaching and handling a pregnant woman who suffers from addiction with hate and contempt only feeds the growing problem. The mothers that birthed these babies are sick too. They suffer from a disease of the brain. If it was just a matter of putting their baby first and stopping all drug use, a pregnant mother would have done it in a heartbeat. These women are in desperate need to be treated like you treat other sick patients – with care, compassion and excellency.
Addiction is a disease of the mind, soul, body and spirit. Doctors play such a crucial part in the heroin, drug and addiction epidemic. The way doctors and their staff treat addicts is crucial. Showing an addict hate and disgust only worsens their condition. Be the tool that encourages these mothers into recovery, not the hand that pushes them further into addiction. Ultimately if you succeed treatment in a loving, caring manner, that addicted pregnant woman and mother may seek treatment for her addiction and become the mother that she needs to be.
Chanda Lynn In Long Term Recovery and an Excellent Mother to Her Child
I don’t enjoy sharing my story. Even after over 2 years in recovery, this is still the absolute worst memory in my life. I wish that the day my baby was born would’ve been one of joy and happiness. I can never get that back, to hold him with reverence, to have all of the “congratulations” and “you’re such a good momma” said to me. The day he was born was a very dark day and I write this in the hopes that the addicts and doctors who read it can prevent this from happening to themselves or other patients.
Today, I am the mother I always knew I could be. I chose to be a mother above all else. It is the greatest blessing to know that I made it out alive to be one – and now a damn good one at that. I know that some may have mixed feelings about me after reading this, but I am putting my neck out on the line in hopes that it will help just one woman, just one unborn baby, just one person who doesn’t understand. Please share this article and lets talk about this.
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Written by By Chanda Lynn, Editor / Writer / Blogger For Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™, Heroin News and the National Alliance of Addiction Treatment Centers (NAATC)
Published by William Charles, Founder/Publisher
We are a community for recovering heroin addicts providing support and recommending the best treatments and clinics to people interested in conquering their addiction.
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