A group of Cincinnati hospitals has mandated drug testing of new mothers and infants amid an 841 percent increase in the number of expectant Ohio mothers found to have an opioid addiction in the last decade, according to state health officials.
Seven hospitals in the Cincinnati area have universally tested for drugs since late 2013. The number of newborns in the area that were exposed in the womb to Percocet, methadone, heroin and other opiates quadrupled from 10.8 infants per 1,000 births in 2009 to 46 per 1,000 births in the first three months of 2013, according to Cincinnati Children’s.
As America’s heroin epidemic has worsened, more attention has been paid to Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), or the withdrawal newborns can experience due to a mother’s drug abuse. NAS can cause relentless irritability, poor feeding and diarrhea in the immediate days following birth.
In Ohio, there was a 760 percent increase in babies diagnosed with NAS from 2004 to 2013, the state health department reported last month.
“Testing is designed to help the family, the mother and the infant,” said Scott Wexelblatt, medical director of regional newborn services at Cincinnati Children’s. “It enables us to ensure that the hospital can monitor the infant after birth and provide the appropriate care if the infant begins to show withdrawal symptoms.”
Under the Ohio program, mothers are asked to take part in testing. If they refuse, the newborn will be tested. A quarter of women who tested positive for opiates would not have revealed they were…