WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – In Ohio, more and more babies are being born addicted to drugs. Medical professionals say getting them healthy is a long, painful process.
In 2015, 159 babies for every 10,000 births were addicted. That number was just 19 for every 10,000 in 2005.
Marsha Lapolla, director of women’s services at Trumbull Memorial Hospital, has been working in the medical field for 36 years. She never used to have to treat infants for addiction.
“It’s been in the last three to five years that we’ve seen an increasing number in that and it’s increasing even more,” Lapolla said.
At Trumbull Memorial, every mother is drug-tested before giving birth. Lapolla said they see mothers with heroin, opiates, and cocaine in their systems.
The number of mothers testing positive for drugs has increased so much that the hospital now has a new program to treat the addicted infants.
“Before, we used to discharge these babies within two days. Now we are keeping them up to seven days,” Lapolla said.
Hospital staff monitors them every three hours. The babies are in pain because they’re going through withdrawal from the drug their mother was using. Lapolla said babies get muscle cramps just like an adult going through withdrawal would. Their recovery depends on what drug their mother used, how much, and if she used more than one type of drug.
Some mothers use so much during their pregnancy that their baby is given morphine.
“They have tremors, muscle aches, so it helps to calm them and it’s a really low dose,” Lapolla said.
Usually after swaddling, feeding a high-calorie formula, and creating a calm environment, the babies recover.
Lapolla said cuddling is very important.
“You’re helping to calm them, basically. You’re holding them, the swaddling, you’re wrapping them with their hands in the blanket. It’s giving them a sense of security.”
St. Elizabeth’s and Akron Children’s in Boardman have volunteers who hold babies, called cuddlers. Akron Children’s Hospital has applications on its website for adults and teens interested in volunteering.
Children Services is at the hospital at least once a week to deal with the numerous infants born with addiction.
“We can’t safely allow that child to leave the hospital with that parent so what we do is we make a plan of safety,” said Ann Marie Mendenhall, with Trumbull County Children Services.
That involves finding a relative or friend that tests negative for drugs to take custody of the baby.
“If they can’t identify a relative, then that baby would come into foster care,” Mendenhall said.
Between 2014 and 2016, Trumbull County Children Services has had 55 percent more children in foster care because of the heroin problem.