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67% Increase In The Number Of Babies Born To Drug Dependent Mothers


Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009 67% Increase In The Number Of Babies Born To Drug Dependent Mothers

Inexcess will always endeavour to cover related issues to the benefit of its readers in the pursuit of recovery. Over the weekend there has been a very disturbing report in the Independent (Nina Lakhani: 31/05/09) discussing the amount of babies that are born with drug dependency. We shall review the article alongside other research that is current to evaluate and assimilate the facts.

There are some very worrying facts the number of babies that have been born suffering drug withdrawal has increased by a staggering 67% in the last decade.

It has been established that between 2007-2008, there were 1,230 babies born in England were suffering from a range of problems such as poor sleeping. In addition the babies suffered agitation and difficulties in feeding as consequence of their drug taking mothers.

Furthermore, these babies will also need small amounts of morphine to enable them get through their withdrawal, according to the British Association of Perinatal Medicine.

Factually, there were a total of 350 babies that were born to mothers ‘in Manchester, Fife and Bradford alone. The majority recovered naturally without being prescribed medication.’

However research carried out by the Sunday Independent has identified that the figures are much higher than the official statistics reveal.

Essentially it is understood that physical withdrawal happens only if the mother has been using opiates, methadone or sedatives whilst pregnant, thus babies who have been exposed. Alternatively, babies born to mothers using cocaine, amphetamines and cannabis may be discounted from the statistics provided.

The problem is further compounded by the increasing numbers of pregnant women misusing both drugs and alcohol alongside a 60% increase in the number of women seen by drug services that prescribe methadone.

Edinburgh City Council, have taken the unprecedented step in order to obtain more foster carers as a result of the number of babies that were born to addicted mothers had doubled between 2007-2008.

According to Professor David Field, president of the British Association of Perinatal Medicine, who argues, “In the mid-1990s, you rarely saw these babies but now there is always one on the ward who is withdrawing, and the numbers will grow as the rates of addiction continue to grow. Most women we see tend to be on heroin or methadone or both, but the risks to the baby from cocaine are a different kettle of fish because it can stop blood from getting to the developing organs. However, research into links between drug use in pregnancy, birth defects and developmental problems suggests it is the overall affects of a chaotic lifestyle, poor diet, smoking and alcohol which cause the damage, rather than just the drugs.”

More specifically there are only 40 drug and alcohol specialist midwives in the UK, it is further argues that access to this type of care is not particularly well organised, even though government ministers will argue that care is much improved.

From the perspective of Joyce Leggate, a drug liaison midwife in Fife, Scotland, she has seen her caseload more than quadruple, since the service began over 12 years ago, she states, “While there has been a significant rise in the number of pregnant women who misuse drugs and alcohol, the number of babies who need treatment with morphine has remained fairly static because we encourage our mothers to breastfeed which provides a natural detox for the baby as they wean. The main goal for us is stabilising mum’s drug use, because withdrawing from multiple drugs is the most dangerous thing for babies.”

Action on Addiction, a charity, has opened a 23 bedroom rehabilitation a consequence of the ever growing need. It is understood that 50% of the clients are indeed mothers. More alarming is the fact that none of these women have custody of their children. According to the report, ‘Guilt, shame and abuse are dominant themes in recovery.

In contrast however, Bethany Lodge, a specialist mother-and-baby rehab unit, is one of 19 centres to close in the past two years and addicts find it difficult to convince health authorities to pay thousands of pounds for residential rehab. Andrew Lansley, the shadow Health Secretary, said: “This further highlights the importance that we ensure that those who are habitual and dependent drug users are directed to effective drug rehabilitation schemes which bring them off drugs completely so that we can also protect unborn children.”

As Joyce Leggate states, “All of our women want to do the best for their babies but there is a limited amount we can do to help them in a few months when 80 per cent were themselves abused as children. But if you really want to mess up a baby long term, then drinking alcohol in pregnancy will cause lifelong damage.”

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