New Virginia program to help pregnant mothers struggling with addiction


According to the CDC, an average of 130 Americans die every day from opioid use. The opioid epidemic affects many Americans, including pregnant women and their newborn babies. One study showed that more than 21% of pregnant women on Medicaid filled at least one opioid painkiller prescription during their pregnancies. Pregnant women may be afraid to seek help for an opioid addiction, believing that their children may be taken away from them. But a new program in the state of Virginia seeks to help women struggling with addiction in pregnancy.

The program, called Mother Up, in partnership with The Children’s Trust, connects pregnant women with recovery programs to help them quit using opioids or other addictive substances during their pregnancy, while working with agencies to enable women to keep their children. The program’s ultimate goal is to facilitate the health and recovery of at-risk women and their children.

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“In talking with moms, the biggest challenge is fear of asking for help. They fear their babies will be taken away, and they fear what would happen during their pregnancy if they are still using or in early recovery and they tell their obstetrician,” said Lisa Denny, director of child abuse prevention for Children’s Trust of Roanoke Valley.

She also told the Roanoke Times that non-punitive help is available to struggling mothers: “The community wants them to be in active recovery and support throughout pregnancy and after.” Denny also expressed the hope that the assistance they offer will reduce the number of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome.

Neonatal abstinence syndrome happens when a baby is exposed to drugs while in his or her mother’s womb. He or she will be born addicted to the same substance(s) as the mother, and will face withdrawal symptoms after birth. Symptoms of withdrawal can include shakes, seizures, twitching, fussiness, excessive crying, poor feeding or slow weight gain, breathing problems including rapid breathing, fever, sweating, blotchy skin, trouble sleeping, gastrointestinal distress, stuffy nose, or sneezing.

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Once the baby is born, the help doesn’t stop there. Addiction recovery is a long process, and Mother Up and the Children’s Trust strive to be there to help women through it. “The recovery process isn’t just the 10 months you are pregnant,” said Denny. The Children’s Trust Healthy Families program will work with families until children are three years of age.

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