Virginia launches effort to help mothers, babies born addicted to drugs

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — More Virginia moms are using drugs while pregnant.

On Wednesday, March of Dimes, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Virginia Section and the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association announced a new effort to address the issue at a news conference at the State Capitol.

It’s called the Virginia Neonatal Perinatal Collaborative. Its goal is to promote birth health and help babies experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

According to the Virginia Inpatient Database, 773 Virginia infants had a Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome diagnosis (NAS) in 2016. That’s out of 95,608 live births last year.

Symptom of NAS include weight loss, restlessness, skin irritation and trembling.

“When a newborn experiences these symptoms they can have negative effects on growth and development during that critical phase of growth,” said Dr. Joseph El Khoury who is the medical director of the Neonatal Transport Team at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.

Dr. Lisa Ann Andruscavage is the director of the Neonatal Abstinence Clinic at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. She said mothers experiencing substance abuse are in a tough spot.

“They’re frustrated. They’re sad. Because they really want the best for their babies,” she said. “These are women who love their babies. They’ve got an addiction, which is a whole other problem.”

Dr. Mishka Terplan is a professor at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine. He said it’s a critical time to intervene.

“We know that treatment works in pregnancy, and by maximizing the health of the mom we maximize the health of the baby.”

The number of women using opioids while pregnant skyrocketed more than 900 percent from 2004 to 2014.

“Ten years for all this to happen is very rapid, and it is only getting worse as we see,” said Dr. Andruscavage

The new collaborative is hoping to give those moms and babies the help they need to live healthier lives.

For the first time, Virginia will be recognizing Substance-Exposed Infant Awareness Week. That will take place the first week of July.

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