On the rise: babies born affected by drugs

TRI-CITIES - It's shocking to think a pregnant mom would do anything to put her baby at risk. But thousands of newborns come into the world addicted to painkillers.

It's happening more often here in the Tri-Cities.
The drugs can be vicodin, methodone or oxyContin.
And the number of addicted babies in our community is likely even higher than what we think.

On average, every hour a baby is born in the US -- undergoing severe withdrawal from opiate drugs.

"It wasn't easy, you know - it was hard," said Richland parent Joanna Edwards.

Edwards was an active drug addict for ten years -- including part of her pregnancy with Ava.

"I was high and I felt Ava moving in my stomach, and it just kind of hit home for me," recounted Edwards.

After getting out of jail, Joanna called Safe Babies Safe Moms to get clean.
Thankfully, her daughter is okay.

"I knew what I was doing was affecting her," said Edwards.

But she's the exception.
Local health experts tell KEPR the number of pregnant addicts is on the rise.

Back in 2010, 2% of Tri-City children were taken out of their homes for a mother abusing drugs. It's steadily increasing since then.

Now, CPS tells me these numbers don't completely represent the growing trend. They can only track the number of infants removed and placed into different homes - so they're missing the number of calls they get of babies affected or exposed - or - mothers abusing while pregnant.

The symptoms of an affected baby are alarming.

"Very irritable, tremors - even up to so severe to having seizure activity," explained KGH Birthing Center Director Beverly Russell.

Doctors often end up giving the baby morphine to mimic the narcotics and ease the withdrawal. But some don't show any symptoms.

There's always a question out there of how many we're really missing," said Russell.

A positive test at birth brings in CPS immediately. Beyond that, hospitals refer moms to social services and programs for support.

"If the baby is going home with that family - has the tools and the skills to be able to safely provide the care the baby is going to need," added Russell.

Helping addicted families get healing.

"Having a baby was the only way out of that life because I could not do it for myself," said Edwards.

Doctors don't advise pregnant addicts to quit painkillers completely.
The baby may miscarry.
Referrals for help can go through the Safe Babies Safe Moms program.