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The consequences of maternal methadone use to newly born infants

From the year 2004 to 2006, the Princes Royal Maternity ward in Glasgow, Scotland accommodated at least 450 drug-dependent pregnant women who are one substitute methadone medication. These women delivered mostly singleton pregnancies.

Researchers who looked into the hospital’s statistics of the 450 pregnant women discovered a strong link between drug use in pregnancy and social deprivation. They also found that around 90% of the said women smoked regularly, about 33% have an active hepatitis C infection, 75% used anti-depressants, and at least 18.2 % have had suffered depression.

The researches reported that aside from their prescribe methadone medication, at least 80% of the women used other illicit drugs even while pregnant. Most commonly used drugs were cannabis, heroin, and benzodiazepines (tranquillizers). Amphetamine and cocaine were also used but to a limited extent.

From the hospital’s data, the researchers also discovered that 45.5% of the infants born from these drug abusing women required pharmacological attention for Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome or NAS. The likelihood of the syndrome was especially high among the women who continued with their drug use throughout their pregnancy.

The most important factor that determined an infant risk for NAS, however, was the women’s prescribed dose of maternal methadone, the researchers said.

The researchers also examined the profile of children in the hospital’s neonatal ward. They found that the most common reasons for admission to the said ward were prematurity (15.8%), social reasons (12.6%), and respiratory problems (12.6%). Infants born to drug dependent mothers constituted almost 20% of the total admissions in the hospitals neonatal unit, the researchers added.

Another interesting findings of the researchers is that breastfeeding for at least 72 hours reduced an infant’s risk for NAS. The researchers attribute this to the benefits contained in breast milk and to the possibility that small amounts of drugs in the mother’s body are mixed with the breast milk, therefore reducing the baby’s withdrawal symptoms.

Based from these findings, the researchers recommend breastfeeding to be encouraged among drug dependent mothers. They also pointed out the benefits of prolonged postnatal stay, saying that this would help doctors closely observe for symptoms of NAS and arrange for any kind of treatment required.

Drug use inevitably affects not a person’s life but also the lives of people around him or her and in case of drug abusing pregnant women, the life and health of her unborn child is greatly affected. If you or someone you love is wasting his/her and other people’s time away with drugs, we are here to help bring normalcy and hope in your life. Miramar Laguna Beach is a California based alcohol and drug addiction treatment center offering holistic programs conducted in a highly conducive environment. For more details, feel free to call out helpline today.