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Opioid Addiction & Pregnancy

Every day, it is estimated that 30 pregnant women addicted to opioids go to emergency rooms for treatment. Opioid addiction during pregnancy is a topic that many find it difficult to discuss and study. In fact, researchers fail to include pregnant women in opioid studies. However, a national survey on drug use and health estimates that 4.4% of pregnant women reported opioid use.
However, what is not reported is that opioid manufacturers never told doctors that using these powerful painkillers during pregnancy could be detrimental to pregnant women and their unborn children.


Impact of Opioid Addiction & Pregnancy

Opioid Pregnancy
The use of opioids while pregnant is becoming an epidemic. In fact, the rate has doubled over the last 13 year, with the most prevalent population being women ages 20-34.  Among this analysis, researchers found that opioid-dependent pregnant women are nearly 5 times as likely to die during hospitalization. Also, opioid addiction and pregnancy bring twice as high of a risk of stillbirth and premature birth.


Pregnancy & Birth Defects

Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth. Some birth defects that may be associated with opioid use during pregnancy include congenital heart defects, spina bifida, cleft lip/palate, clubfoot, and other birth defects.


Pregnancy & Withdrawal

Opioids are a short-acting drug with the high lasting between 4-6 hours. When the drug begins to wear off, withdrawal symptoms start. When a pregnant woman uses these powerful opioids and goes through the withdrawal process, the fetus does as well.
Repeated withdrawals are dangerous and damaging to an unborn child. When these drugs cross the placenta, they can affect the fetus by causing developmental delays, damage to the placenta, abnormal uterine contractions, and reduce the blood flow to the fetus. They also interfere with the fetal developmental process.
If used during the first trimester, when organ development takes place, there is a great risk for developing birth defects from opiate use. During the second and third trimester organ and tissue growth occur as major systems in the fetus. Early labor can occur at any point during pregnancy with large doses of opiates on a frequent basis.


Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

According to a government report, the number of babies being born in the United States addicted to opioids has tripled in the last 15 years. This equates to one baby suffering from opiate withdrawal approximately every 25 minutes. Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is the withdrawal symptoms a baby experiences after opioid exposure during pregnancy. Symptoms can include excessive crying, fever, irritability, difficulty eating, seizures, slow weight gain, tremors, diarrhea, vomiting, and possible death.
Babies suffering from withdrawal are irritable and often have a difficult time being comforted. Swaddling may help comfort the baby. Babies also may need extra calories because of their increased activity and may need a higher calorie formula. A baby may need intravenous (IV) fluids if dehydrated, has severe vomiting or diarrhea.
Treating a baby with NAS can be costly and complicated. Usually, these babies need specialized NICU treatments. The hospital costs for newborns with NAS are $150,000 on average. Costs for a baby without NAS is $3,500. NAS doesn’t just cost a family, but also the hospital as well. Medicaid pays for about 60% of NAS babies. Extended treatment could be up to $238,000.


It Isn’t Your Fault

Sad CoupleDrug manufacturers lied to us about the addictive nature of opioids, and medical professionals prescribe them. Prescribing these drugs in high doses and for prolonged periods of time can lead to addiction and other devastating injuries. These include, among other adverse side effects, dependence, the craving to seek more drugs, use of other legal painkillers, use of other illegal drugs, and worst of all, overdose and death.
Doctors should only prescribe powerful opioid painkillers such as fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, or methadone (drugs with common names such as Vicodin, Percocet, and OxyContin) for short-term, intense pain, not to treat chronic pain conditions.
Prescribing these drugs in high doses and for prolonged periods can lead to addiction and other injuries such as dependence, overdose, fetal birth defects, and death. America’s opioid epidemic has killed tens of thousands of Americans. It’s a national tragedy. Drug manufacturers could have prevented these injuries, instead, they advertised their products as being less addictive than they actually are. Drug manufacturers have sometimes alleged that these drugs are safe to treat chronic pain. This marketing has lured scores of medication users and even doctors, into a false sense of security in using and prescribing such drugs.
Therefore, if your baby was born with NAS or a birth defect after using opioids during pregnancy, contact us today. We have decades of experience going against pharmaceutical companies and drug manufacturers that produce unsafe products.

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