Increase in babies born to opiate addicted mothers
Doctors at Swedish Hospital say they've seen a steady increase in pregnant women who are addicted to heroin or prescription drugs.
It's an epidemic that has terrible health consequences for newborns.
"Many of these babies need to be treated with morphine, which is what we do in the hospital to help them slowly go through their withdrawl. Because if they go through too quickly and we don't help them, they can have seizures and brain damage," says Dr. Elizabeth Meade, the assistant chief of pediatrics at Swedish Hospital.
She says the pediatric unit has mobilized and works to make these babies as comfortable as possible.
Many of the newborns require dark, quiet conditions and need to be held constantly. The hospital even has volunteers who come in and hold the babies.
Swedish Ballard has a program for Pregnant Women with Chemical Dependencies of all kinds.
In some cases the expectant moms still need to be on methadone. If the mother is in treatment, medical staff prepares to help the baby right away.
Dr. Meade said the problem started long ago when doctors would overprescribe pain medications.
Opiate use is on the rise across all age groups, ethnicities and classes despite efforts to stop the epidemic.
"Nationally we've been trying to decrease the rate of prescription of opiates, because we are seeing this problem, but that's leading to people who are already addicted to these pills are turning to heroin because they don't have anything else to use," says Meade
For more information on Treatment for Pregnant Women with Chemical Dependency call 206-781-6209, ext. 2.