New mothers addicted to substances including cannabis and methadone

News story
News story

MORE than 100 pregnant women have given birth to babies while hooked on drugs over the last five years.

Data released under Freedom of Information rules reveals that between 2010 and to date, 117 babies were born by mothers who were addicted to illegal or prescribed substances. The most common drug was cannabis with 39 births, followed by methadone, with 35 addicted mothers.

All babies born to drug-dependent mothers are rigorously monitored and observed for any signs or symptoms of withdrawal

Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust spokesman

So far this year, eight mums gave birth while seeking treatment for substance misuse. Of these, four were on heroin, three were using cannabis and one was prescribed methadone.

In the financial year 2014-15, 28 new mums were dependent on drugs, reaching an all-time high in five years.

Eight women were being treated for methadone addiction, with a further eight using cannabis. Four mums gave birth to babies whilst on heroin; three were taking cocaine; three were ingesting Subutex tablets; one woman was prescribed Tramadol and another was using amphetamines.

Information on how many babies developed Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome was unclear.

In the most severe cases, babies can be treated with or without medication to help with their withdrawal symptoms.

If medication interventions are necessary, physicians typically use morphine, though methadone and other medications can also be used.

A spokesman for Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust said the hospitals provide extra support for drug-dependent mothers and their babies.

She said: “Most pregnant women with substance misuse problems will have a normal pregnancy, labour, delivery and a full-term normal birth-weight baby.

“Babies who are born with neonatal abstinence syndrome can be treated with or without medication.

“Lots of babies respond well to simple things like gentle words, cuddles and containment holding.

“Containment holding works well with premature babies and is a way for parents to settle agitated babies in a safe and controlled way. This is done by placing one hand around baby’s head and the other around their bottom and holding the position very still. While parents are doing this they can gently touch baby’s brow and quietly talk or sing to the baby.

“All babies born to drug-dependent mothers are rigorously monitored and observed for any signs or symptoms of withdrawal. These signs could include weight loss, difficulties in feeding, fits or implacable high pitched screaming.

“If a baby does show signs, they are transferred to the Neonatal Unit for specialist treatment, which may include supporting medication to ease the withdrawal.

“The maternity and obstetric teams at WWL work together closely to provide early support and appropriate intervention for pregnant women who have difficulties such as substance misuse.

“Antenatal care can be provided in various settings including antenatal clinics, drug and alcohol service, women’s own homes etc.

“WWL takes its commitment to caring for these women very seriously. The appointment of a drug liaison midwife, Caroline Grundy, has been crucial to being able to offer them the vital one-to-one support they need.

“Because our maternity services work closely with our drug and alcohol services, care plans can be started and adapted without delays. This is so important for the health of mother and baby.

“Being able to provide this special service has shown big improvements to the service and user experience.”