Warning over "drug dependent" baby figures

More newborn babies had to have drug dependency treatment by medical staff at hospitals in Northumberland last year, according to new figures.

By Joanna Morris
Monday, 25th January 2021, 4:30 pm
Updated Monday, 25th January 2021, 5:17 pm
Fears raised over "drug dependent" baby numbers
Fears raised over "drug dependent" baby numbers

NHS figures for the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust show the number of recorded medical interventions linked to what is called neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) rose from fewer than eight in 2018-19 to 20 in 2019-20.

Morphine and methadone were among substances given to babies to wean them from drugs used in pregnancy by their mothers – but experts say the true scale of the issue is likely to be greater, because many are born with drug dependency will not require medication.

Dr Alison Wright, spokeswoman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said substance use during pregnancy could have a serious impact on the health and bonding of mother and baby.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

She acknowledged that "complex barriers" stood in the way of mothers-to-be disclosing their drug use but urged women to seek help.

Dr Wright said: “We would encourage all pregnant women who use recreational drugs to speak to their GP, obstetrician or midwife, who will be able to offer non-judgemental and appropriate advice, help and support."

Sharon Mallett, director of nursing at drug, alcohol and mental health charity We Are With You, said drug-using mothers often experienced "overwhelming guilt and shame" and called for midwives and other experts to work together to create non-judgemental environments.

She added: "The earlier parents seek support the more positive the results are for both the mother and child. That’s why it’s really important not to judge mothers who do come forward around this issue."