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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS): Hospitals Consider Surge In Addicted Babies

Newborns born addicted

Typically when a woman discovers that she is pregnant either by an in-home pregnancy test or a test given by her health care provider she begins to make changes in her daily living habits. For example, the expectant mother might try to improve her eating habits; she might examine her daily exercise routine by either maintaining her amount of exercise or considering lessening the amount or types of exercise she practices. She might consider improving her sleep habits, she might review how many hours she works outside the home over the course of each week. She might also give up smoking or drinking that daily or weekly glass of wine. These are positive changes in behavior all tackled with the goal of having a healthy baby. Mothers generally want to provide their new baby with the best start in life possible.

But what about the expectant mother who is already addicted to such items as prescription pain medication? We have written about this topic before and we know how difficult recovery from prescription pain medication can be for anyone. It is particularly difficult when an expectant mother needs to face her addiction with the hope of delivering a healthy non-addicted baby.

The fact is many babies are born addicted. How many?  Well, it turns out that the US Government does not track the number of babies who are born addicted; however, there was a study conducted in 2009 that found that the number exceeds 13,000 infants who were born dependent on drugs. This study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) is rising in Tennessee

This week it was reported that the number of newborns born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is rising in Tennessee.  Here are some surprising statistics:

  • At Holston Valley medical Center 20 to 50% of all babies in the neonatology intensive care units (NICU) are battling NAS
  • The Tennessee Department of Health reported 55 NAS cases in 1999, as compared to 174 in 2005, 525 in 2010 and 672 cases reported in 2011.
  • At East Tennessee Children's Hospital in Knoxville this year they expect to treat 320 children with NAS, in 2008 the number was 33.
  • Tennessee is the first state to track the number of babies born with NAS.

WCYB.COM  reported on treating babies with NAS

You can view the news report here. It is important to remember that these NAS babies require a great amount of care and love.  Also, they really need to be held, rocked, talked to, sung to, and swaddled gently. Many hospitals have started a new volunteer position...cuddlers. If you have time to volunteer for a program like this, contact your local hospital and see if they need your help. Programs such as these, more education about addiction and getting services for the addicted woman prior to conception will help to reduce the number of babies born addicted.  

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