MetroHealth seeing more opiate-addicted mothers and babies

CLEVELAND -- Every hospital in northeast Ohio has had experience with an opiate-addicted mother giving birth to a baby, but perhaps none so much as MetroHealth Medical Center.

Metro Neonatologist, Dr. Deepak Kumar estimates the hospital sees about half of all addicted pregnant women in the region. Partly because they have a program targeted to helping them not only overcome their addiction, but also providing the best care for their babies, even if they're born addicted too.

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Last year, Metro saw 66 babies born to addicted mothers, half of those required Neonatal Intensive Care because the babies were born addicted too.

"Withdrawal can last from two to three weeks to two to three months," Dr. Kumar says.

Heroin withdrawal for an infant means constant crying that can't be comforted, convulsions, diarrhea, fever, joint stiffness and they can't sleep. If the mother injects the heroin they're also at risk for HIV.

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But just because a child is born addicted doesn't mean it's damaged for life.

"There is no evidence to believe that these babies are destined in the future to have severe problems or that they'll be addicted or they will have developmental problems. It all depends on how much love and care, just like any other child, they get at home," Dr. Kumar says.

But he admits the problem is growing. So far this year the program is treating 56 mothers and Dr. Kumar wouldn't be surprised to see 75 to 80 babies born to addicted women by the end of the year.

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