What is the Effect of Opioids in Utero?

A recent Philadelphia Inquirer article reported on how America’s opiate epidemic is affecting children, citing a recent study. But what the study didn’t cover, according to the article, is how newborns are affected from exposure in utero.

It may be surprising to think that pregnant mothers consume opioids, but the number is growing, according to the article. The author estimated that there are five times the number of pregnant mothers consuming opioids as compared to 20 years ago.

The effect on a newborn can be devastating. Some newborns experience withdrawal symptoms, known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. If left untreated, it can cause seizures, neurological damage or, in rare cases, death, reported the article. Street drugs consumed by pregnant mothers can worsen the effects.

Not every infant experiences withdrawal, however, according to the article. Some newborns may have no symptoms at all.

Pennsylvania now requires hospitals to report the birth of babies affected by opioid exposure in utero. The rules for reporting are unclear, however, noted the article. Some hospitals only report infants that experience withdrawal, while others will be reporting all newborns exposed to opioids in utero. Still others will report babies exposed to any street drug (including opioids).

Do you have a legal question on a birth injury that you believe is the result of negligence? Contact us online or call 215-751-0100.

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