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One In Four Pregnant Women In Oregon Have Drug Problems

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The number of women giving birth to infants undergoing drug withdrawal has increased over five times in Oregon since 2000.

Dr. Barbara Neuman started a program for women in Redmond. She says that pregnancy can sometimes turn out to be a good time for women addicted to opioids to kick the habit,

I think it’s a scare sometimes. Or an opportunity. Suddenly they realize that they’re responsible for someone other than themselves. And maybe they question some of their lifestyle choices.

Pregnant women arriving at St. Charles Center for Women’s Health take a drug test which is very sensitive – it can tell if a person smoked weed four weeks ago. Around two-thirds of the ladies who test positive are for marijuana, San Francisco Gate reports.

Jay Wurscher, the alcohol and drug coordinator with Oregon Child Welfare, said that their office gets an estimated 80,000 calls on safety yearly, so when it comes to drugs and pregnancy, the welfare system is letting healthcare take the lead. Wurscher said, “The carrot-and-stick analogy works.”

The “stick” end of the bargain is the rare move of taking custody of a newborn. The “carrot” is allowing the women with drug addictions to get help and turn their lives around.

Wurscher said, “It used to be really difficult to get a physician on the line or a nurse to talk to you from a hospital setting. But that’s dramatically changed.” Women are now more open to accepting help from health workers than from the state, he added. “They have to face all that shame. They have to face withdrawal from the drug that they’re using. They have to face sometimes criminal things that they’ve done . so what is it that will bring that person toward recovery?”

If a pregnant woman persistently tests positive at St. Charles, she is given a peer counselor.

The center began the program for “drug affected” pregnant women because there were so many coming in. There is a system of incentives where women earn points towards getting things like diapers or a rocking chair in return for going to check-ups and vaccinations.

Tricia Clay, clinic manager, said, “If we can get in the forefront and get them to their appointments. Healthier moms have healthier babies and then our overall cost in health care can be reduced.”



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