America has an opioid problem and more mothers are struggling with sobriety.
“At the height of my addiction, I could take anywhere from 20 or 30 Percocets a day if I had them,” said Amanda Martin, who’s opioid addiction started shortly after the death of a child.
“My third born son died shortly after he was born and that just made a huge impact on me,” Martin said.
During her fourth and fifth pregnancies, Martin, a former nurse, started taking pain pills which she says impacted her other children’s health.
“They both had delayed speech patterns,” she said. “My youngest son that I took the most opiates with, he did have some developmental delays.”
Martin’s opioid addiction eventually led to heroin use and ultimately put her in jail.
New research shows during the past two decades, four times as many pregnant women are struggling with opioid use disorder and almost eight times as many infants are diagnosed with opioid withdrawal.
Now, health experts say that many are having a hard time getting proper treatment.
“Hospitals are providing variable care,” said Stephen Patrick, MD, director of the Vanderbilt Center for Child Health Policy. "And we see systems in communities really stretched, everything from local community hospitals to the child welfare system."
He says every 15 minutes in America, an infant is born having an opioid withdrawal, which accounts for half a billion dollars in healthcare expenditures nationwide.
“This year it looks like we’re on record pace once again to have to have a record-number of opioid overdoses,” Patrick said.
While the COVID-19 crisis has made it harder for pregnant women to get into treatment, Patrick says this is a fixable problem, but that America currently lacks to funding and political will to change it.
“As we start to usher in a new administration, I really hope the unique needs of pregnant women and infants affected by the opioid crisis are front and center,” he said.
More help is something Martin agrees with, especially during the COVID crisis.
“We see a lot of people coming in that are relapsing just simply because of the pandemic,” said Martin.
Now three-and-a-half years sober, Martin is working as a recovery coach for Vertava Health in Mississippi and encouraging pregnant moms battling opioid addiction to get help, no matter how hard it may be.
“There’s help out there,” she said. “And there’s non-judgmental places that you can come and you can get your whole life together and never have to live that way.”