Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Rural hospitals struggle to cope with increase in babies born addicted to opioids

Yet another way the opioid epidemic is hurting rural America: rural hospitals are ill-equipped to cope with the rise in infants born addicted to opioids. The number of mothers with opioid use disorder and babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome has increased in the past eight years; in 2018 a baby with NAS is born every 25 minutes in the United States. "A new study in The Journal of Rural Health shows that almost half of pregnant women with OUD living in these areas give birth in rural hospitals, which are not necessarily equipped to deal with their complex medical needs," Annabelle Timsit reports for Quartz.

Besides the long-term behavioral, developmental, and health problems triggered by NAS, it can also cause problems like diarrhea, vomiting, high fevers and seizures for up to six months after birth. That means they tend to stay much longer in the hospital than the average newborn and need intensive and sustained treatment. Opioid-addicted mothers are at higher risk of medical complications during pregnancy and after birth, like placental abruption, preterm labor, maternal obstetric complications, and fetal death. Many rural hospitals don't have the resources to care for such infants and mothers, especially since fewer than half of rural hospitals in the U.S. offer obstetrical care at all, Timsit reports.

University of Minnesota researchers gleaned the data for the study from the hospital discharge records of 950,000 rural mothers who delivered 980,000 babies between 2007 and 2014. "The researchers measured the incidence of maternal OUD among rural residents who gave birth in urban teaching, urban non-teaching, and rural hospitals," Timsit reports. "They found that maternal OUD rates had increased between 2007 and 2014 across all three hospital categories, including rural hospitals, where 48.3 percent of rural residents with maternal OUD give birth."

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