Opioid addictions among pregnant women on the rise in Minnesota

A new report by the CDC reports the number of women addicted to opioids during pregnancy has quadrupled in 15 years.

It’s a public health concern in the midst of the country’s opioid epidemic - a rapidly rising rate of pregnant women addicted to opioids.

“It’s always surprising to see, but when you’re working in it and seeing patients, in some ways you’re not surprised because we knew it was an issue,” said Adrienne Richardson, of Health Partners. 

According to the CDC’s latest report, the issue shows no real signs of slowing. From 1999 to 2014, the number of women addicted to opioids at the time of pregnancy increased from a national average of 1.5 women for every 1,000 hospitalizations to 6.5 women. Minnesota reported roughly 4 opioid-dependent women for every 1,000. The highest reporting state was Vermont with 48.6 opioid-dependent women for every 1,000.

“Every day - I mean we have many patients every day who are pregnant, who are addicted to opioids,” said Dr. Charles Reznikoff of Hennepin County Medical Center. “And in addition to that we have even more patients who have gotten through the pregnancy successfully who have had a healthy child and done well after the pregnancy.”

Experts say the addiction poses a risk for the mother, and the baby during pregnancy.

“The mother is desperate to get her daily opioids because she’s addicted to them,” said Reznikoff. “She’s not going to her prenatal visits. She’s not eating well, and taking care of herself.”

If the dependency isn't properly addressed, it can lead to problems after birth as well.

“Sometimes for a few days after birth, the baby will have something that’s called neo-natal abstinence syndrome,” said Reznikoff. “That’s like opioid withdrawal after birth.”

“They tend to be fussier,” said Richardson. “In the very extreme they can have seizures from the withdrawals so those babies need more time in the hospital.”

Experts say this is always a risk when the mother is addicted to opioids, but with proper communication, they can better treat both mother and baby after birth so each can live a healthier life.

The report also sites that reported number may not actually reflect the true number as some hospitals were not included and doctors say some women are too ashamed to report.

Experts recommend women find more information about this issue at the Health Partners website