Heartland doctor working to decrease drug withdrawal symptom new - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Heartland doctor working to decrease drug withdrawal symptom newborns

(Source: KFVS 12) (Source: KFVS 12)

A Heartland doctor is teaming up with community agencies in Missouri's Bootheel region to help minimize the number of newborns with drug withdrawal symptoms.

Neonatologist Dr. Alan Barnett with St. Francis Medical Center specializes in caring for pre-term and ill newborns including those affected by drug withdrawal symptoms.

“These infants are quite irritable,” Barnett said. “The infants want to be held more frequently, they need you to respond to their needs more promptly than other infants.”

Barnett says babies born with opioids in their system are at a physical disadvantage to start life.

“They often have difficulty with tasks that other babies would find it easy to do like feeding.”

Barnett is working with Bootheel Babies and the Missouri Foundation for Health on educated expecting mothers on the risk involved with prescription use while pregnant.

The program aims to interact with women while they are in postnatal care.

He says in recent years the Bootheel region has seen rising casing of babies with drug withdrawal symptoms similar to trends nationwide.

Barnett says research shows nearly one in three women get a prescription filled at least once while pregnant.

And a new study published in the Journal of American Medical Association shows babies born with those drug withdrawal symptoms rose nearly 600% in the past decade.

“I think this opioid withdrawal is the same experience that adults who are having withdrawal symptoms from opioids are having,” Barnett said.

He said in some cases pregnant women are prescribed prescription drugs and other times they are facing an addiction.

"The best solution with this challenge may not be penalizing these families but instead providing help for them and understanding that there's mental health issues that could be addressed."

He says 1 in 10 babies in the Pemiscot, Dunklin, New Madrid, Mississippi, Scott and Stoddard die before their first birthday, well above the national average.

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