Every Ohio mother-to-be should be cautious when putting anything into her body-particularly strong pain medications like Vicodin or OxyContin.
A study conducted in 2009 and recently published found that over 13,000 babies were born in the United States with symptoms of opiate drug withdrawal-triple the rate of afflicted babies born in 2000.
Babies who were exposed and thus became dependant on opiate drugs their mothers used during pregnancy exhibit several symptoms of withdrawal soon after birth. Irritability, breathing and feeding problems, tremors, dehydration and even seizures are several common symptoms.
Treating babies suffering from opiate withdrawal takes time. For mild cases, all that is needed is soothing in a dark room followed by a comforting touch. But most babies are likely to need doses of methadone or morphine to relieve their symptoms and wean from dependence. Dosages, however, are gradually tapered off over several weeks. Cutting off a drug-dependent baby too abruptly can have serious consequences, even death.
The Source of the Problem
The increase in babies experiencing opiate withdrawal is attributed to an increase in maternal drug use. Five times as many pregnant women were using opiate drugs in 2009 as in 2000.
In an editorial published with the study, a physician indicated that the incidence of drug use in pregnancy has “gone crazy.”
One reason may be due to a women’s acceptance of these drugs. Women who otherwise would’ve hesitated using illegal, addictive drugs like heroin, many find it more accepting and safe to use prescription drugs-particularly if a doctor prescribed them. However, they become just as dependent on the drug.
Another reason may be attributed to the rise in opiate prescriptions written by doctors. Depending on the category these drugs are classified, some doctors prescribe these medications to pregnant women without really understanding the risks associated.
A Physician’s Duty
Doctors have a duty to a patient once the physician-patient relationship is established. Doctors who fail to live up to that duty and harm results to the patient or her unborn baby because of the doctor’s actions or failure to act, a cause of action may arise.