Better approaches needed to combat opioid use during pregnancy, according to report

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According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, systemic, coordinated, and holistic approaches are needed to improve health care for families affected by opioid use during pregnancy.

Between 2000 and 2016, neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome rates increased from 1.2 per 1,000 hospital births to 8.8. Mothers and babies face barriers to care based on where they live.

“We can take steps to improve healthcare for the mother during pregnancy, which leads to better outcomes for both mother and child, and, ultimately, for society,” Dr. Stephen W. Patrick, lead author of the report, said. “We saw an increase of 10,000 children in the foster care system from 2011 to 2017 largely due to a parent’s substance use, for instance. We must provide these families with support earlier rather than later.”

The academy’s report issues numerous recommendations.

For hospitals, it recommends standardized approaches and protocols for the care of opioid-exposed infants, mothers and infants should be kept together throughout observation and treatment, and the discharge processes should connect families to post-discharge services and early intervention services.

Pregnant women should receive counseling and should have access to medications for opioid use disorder.

Finally, pediatricians should partner with state and local welfare agencies to advocate for improved access to quality treatment.

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