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High risk women revealed by neonatal abstinence syndrome

Thursday November 28th, 2019

The mortality risk for mothers of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome is 11 times greater than normal, according to a new analysis.

Researchers say that pregnancy may be a good time to identify high risk women and encourage them to receive addiction services.

The work was carried out by Dr Ruth Blackburn of University College London, UK, and her team, and appeared in PLoS Medicine yesterday (26 November).

They explain that neonatal abstinence syndrome is a group of symptoms experienced by babies from withdrawal from certain drugs, usually opioids, that they are exposed to during gestation.

A database of all hospital births in England and in Ontario, Canada from 2002 to 2012 was analysed, including child outcomes up to 2016. This included a sub-group of 13,577 mothers in England and 4,966 in Ontario with infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome.

The mortality risk was 11 to 12 times higher for mothers in this group, meaning that 5.1% of mothers in England and 4.6% of mothers in Canada died within ten years of delivery, compared with a background rate of 0.4% for both countries. Causes of death were mostly avoidable, such as intentional and unintentional injury.

Dr Blackburn said: “We were struck by how consistent the findings were in both England and Canada. This is despite differences in the profile of opioid users in England and Canada suggesting both countries need to focus on improving long-term care for mothers with opioid addiction.”

Co-researcher Dr Astrid Guttmann added: “Pregnancy care is an opportunity to identify mothers who may need addiction services and other support to improve their health and that of their families.”

Guttmann, A. et al. Long-term mortality in mothers of infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome: A population-based parallel-cohort study in England and Ontario, Canada. PLoS Medicine 26 November 2019

Tags: Childbirth and Pregnancy | Drug & Alcohol Abuse | Nursing & Midwifery | UK News | Women's Health & Gynaecology

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