Every year, roughly 10,000 babies are born addicted to painkillers. Their first days of life are excruciating ─ consisting of stiff limbs, tremors, extreme diarrhea, fever, irritability, and excessive crying. They are often separated from their mothers and taken to neonatal intensive care units, where they receive small doses of morphine to treat their opioid withdrawal symptoms.
Weaning the infant off of morphine can take anywhere between 2 to 12 weeks, but the infant’s troubles don’t end there. Opioid abuse during pregnancy has been linked with a 600 percent increase in prenatal obstetric complications. Children born to mothers with opioid addictions can suffer from feeding difficulties, respiratory problems, fetal abnormalities, developmental disorders, and mental abnormalities. They are also at greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Unfortunately, there is no easy solution for addicted mothers who discover that they are pregnant, as abruptly quitting opioids can be extremely dangerous to both mother and child. Evidence shows that babies experience craving and withdrawal symptoms even when they are still in the uterus.
Doctors believe that quitting cold turkey could cause a miscarriage, which is why many are opting for managing the mother’s addiction with methadone or morphine. While this prevents the baby from experiencing withdrawal while in the uterus, this also cause for the baby to be born addicted to methadone or morphine. Roughly 80 percent of babies born to mothers struggling with addiction are born addicted.
Due to the stigma associated with addiction or fear of being labeled a bad mother, many women try to hide their addiction during their pregnancy. This is extremely dangerous to the baby and can lead to long-term health complications. If you are pregnant and struggling with addiction, it is important to be honest with your doctor and seek help immediately.