As recently as 2009, 13,539 babies were born already addicted to opioid painkillers. How is this possible? Well, anything an expecting mother eats, drinks, smokes, swallows or injects into her body not only circulates through her system, it also passes through the body of the growing fetus. When a pregnant woman takes drugs, these substances are also passing through the developing body and brain of the baby she is carrying.
Painkillers such as Oxycontin and Vicodin are powerful opiates-drugs that come from the same basic plant sources as heroin and opium. When a pregnant woman takes these drugs, her newborn child will come into the world with a body that is already dependent on the drugs.
Since no one in their right mind wants to give infants powerful pain pills, these babies will immediately begin experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Literally cut off from the source of the opiates the moment the umbilical cord is severed, the baby is immediately thrust into the same position as an addict that has come down from his high.
Doctors report that these infants will experience excruciating pain. They will cry non-stop and have vomiting, diarrhea and occasionally even seizures. This is a terrible fate for anyone to go through, let alone babies experiencing their very first days of life.
Any hospital or community aware of this situation would obviously want to take effective action to reduce the number of babies being born already addicted to drugs, but one of solutions that seems most obvious-a woman simply quitting the drugs once she becomes pregnant-may not actually be a solution at all.
The problem with this “cold turkey” approach is that many drug addicts will not talk to a doctor about their pregnancy until they are already several months along. According to medical experts, having the drug addict stop using the drug immediately would cause her withdrawal symptoms to begin, and this can create problems for the fetus, up to and including a miscarriage.
A much better solution, then, would be for an addict to quit using drugs before becoming pregnant. For women that are planning on having children intentionally, this is the most sensible course of action, even if quitting drugs is never easy. These women should enter a drug rehabilitation program to get clean and then try to get pregnant.
In order to this approach to actually work, potential mothers should have the opportunity to get educated about the dangers of using drugs during pregnancy. Making this information widely available through high school drug education programs is one method of preventing infant drug addiction from occurring.
Many women get pregnant unintentionally, too, of course, and this is where preventing drug addiction in babies can get difficult. Doctors are currently researching ways to help drug addicted, pregnant women come off of drugs without endangering the lives of their babies.
For the time being, however, prevention really is the best solution. If women don’t use drugs in the first place, the lives and health of their future children will never be in danger.