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Should Pregnant Women on Drugs Be Reported to Authorities? Maine Says No.

There’s no doubt that a drug addict who gets pregnant, or a pregnant woman who takes dangerous drugs while pregnant, has done something destructive to her baby. And there’s no doubt that both the mother and the baby (born yet or not) need help. But Portland, Maine, recently rejected a bill requiring doctors, drug treatment providers and other professionals to report pregnant women suspected of drug abuse. Why?

The number of babies born ‘drug-affected’ in Maine has been climbing for years. As of 2016, one in twelve babies born in the state were in drug trouble.

Some babies exposed to drugs may not develop properly while in the womb, could be born prematurely, have seizures and birth defects. And if you’ve never seen a newborn going through withdrawal, count yourself lucky. Here’s what you can expect, as described by Stanford Children’s Health:

  • Tremors (trembling)
  • Irritability (excessive crying)
  • Sleep problems
  • High-pitched crying
  • Tight muscle tone
  • Hyperactive reflexes
  • Seizures
  • Yawning, stuffy nose, and sneezing
  • Poor feeding and suck
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Sweating
  • Fever or unstable temperature

Is it any surprise that officials are tempted to come down hard on anyone who would put a baby through that?

Officials say the only intention of this bill is to help. But critics think it could backfire. They’re afraid it will keep addicted mothers from getting any prenatal care at all – which means even fewer of them will be likely to take the opportunity to get treatment for their drug problem, and babies will be left out in the cold with no help at all. And where are those babies going to be born? Would the mothers go to hospitals for the birth, fearing that their baby might be taken from them then and there?

The best thing, of course, is to provide drug rehab for the mothers – done by experts who are experienced at treating addicted pregnant women without endangering them or their babies – so that by the time the baby is born neither the mother nor the child is addicted. Or something as close to that as possible.

Unfortunately, the situation is similar to other problems with drug addiction. Part of the addiction phenomena is not really being able to demonstrate that you care about anyone, including your unborn baby, more than you do about getting your next hit. Doing the right thing for yourself and others rarely takes priority.

However, some people can get themselves into drug rehab – and they did do that for themselves despite how much they were pushed by someone else.

What do you see as a solution to the problem of more babies being born drug-affected? Do you think there’s anything to be done about it other than the actions that are already being taken to address drug addiction?

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