The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that number of pregnant women with opioid use disorder (OUD) has significantly increased since 1999. Even the states with the lowest increase rates show how the opioid epidemic affects pregnant mothers and their children.

CDC Report

Between 1999 and 2014, the national rates of OUD in the United States has increased by 333 percent. As the opioid epidemic persists, even the unborn children are being affected as the rates have also significantly increased among reproductive-aged and pregnant women. In fact, according to a new CDC report, in the same period, the number of women with OUD during labor and delivery more than quadrupled.

Gathering the available data from a hospital discharge database with information on women in 28 states, researchers found that the national prevalence rate for OUD increased from 1999’s 1.5 per 1,000 delivery hospitalizations to 2014’s 6.5 per 1,000. The increase was observed in all 28 states involved, with the lowest increase rates in California and Hawaii, and the highest increase rates in Maine, New Mexico, Vermont, and West Virginia. In terms of prevalence rates, DC and Nebraska had the lowest, while Vermont and West Virginia had the highest rates.

OUD In Pregnant Women

According to Wanda Barfield M.D., Rear Admiral, U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) and director of the Division of Reproductive Health, what the report shows is that even the states with the smallest increase rates show that more women are being affected by OUD during pregnancy and delivery.

People with OUD normally exhibit serious health problems and may fail to fulfill responsibilities at home, in school, or at work. In pregnant women, OUD may result in health problems that can affect both the mother and the baby, including maternal death, stillbirth, preterm birth, or neonatal abstinence syndrome wherein the newborn baby may experience withdrawal symptoms as a result of being exposed to drugs in the womb.

“These findings illustrate the devastating impact of the opioid epidemic on families across the U.S., including on the very youngest. Untreated opioid use disorder during pregnancy can lead to heartbreaking results. Each case represents a mother, a child, and a family in need of continued treatment and support,” said Robert R. Redfield, M.D., CDC Director.

To reduce the problem of OUD in pregnant women and infants, part of the CDC’s response is by supporting state-level projects that aim to better identify pregnant women with OUD and to provide care for infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome and their mothers.

Other CDC recommendations to reduce such cases include appropriate opioid prescribing, enhancing prescription drug monitoring programs, ensuring access to medication assisted therapy for pregnant women with OUD, and ensuring that the mothers with OUD receive proper postpartum care, relapse-prevention programs, and substance use treatments.

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