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Universal Drug Testing for Pregnant Women

Updated: Tuesday, September 24 2013, 10:04 AM EDT

CINCINNATI (Liz Bonis) -- A new program involving universal drug testing for pregnant women launches at all Tri-State hospitals.

The goal is to identify babies who may be at risk for serious health concerns due to withdrawal. Medical reporter Liz Bonis has what mothers need to know in today's Medical Edge.

The sound of music, the excitement of a new life, the hustle and bustle of busy baby care. These are all the things associated with a newborn baby which is why a specific problem is often missed. The incidence of babies exposed to drugs has risen five fold in the last five years.

Doctor Amy Nathan is a neonatologist, who is part of a team supporting universal drug testing for pregnant women. "Our current data suggests that almost four percent of babies delivering are exposed to some sort of opiate in utero". 

She says the most common complications right now are due to withdrawal from prescription drugs. So each mom who comes in for delivery is now asked to submit a urine sample for drug testing. Doctors say the baby is not going to be taken away.

The team will just be looking for symptoms of withdrawal after delivery which include:  tremors, excessive crying, diarrhea, and in severe situations seizure.

The information is used for the medical care of the baby and the medical care of the mother to provide services the family needs, and it is not public information.

A mother does have the right to opt out says Dr. Nathan "a mother has the right to refuse this test or any other test in the hospital, a refusal would likely prompt a little more close scrutiny, watching the baby for signs of withdrawal."

In most cases this takes about two to five days, which could lead to a longer stay because often women are discharged soon after birth.

Some hospitals also have programs for mothers during and following pregnancy to help kick addiction. One local hospital that began this program before the others reports a lot of positive tests not found in routine pre-pregnancy screening.

Universal Drug Testing for Pregnant Women

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