Opioid Crisis

Providing help for youngest victims of opioid crisis

HERSHEY, Pa. (WHTM) - In Pennsylvania, 58 percent of babies born to mothers who are users suffer from the excruciating effects of withdrawal.

Dr. Tammy Corr is a neonatologist at Penn State Health. She sees it dozens of times a year: the shaking, inconsolable babies born to opioid abusers.

"It's definitely disturbing the first time you see it," said Corr. 

One Midstate woman who did not want to be identified was using heroin during her pregnancy.

"And I really thought this baby, this baby that you're growing inside of you, this will be enough for you to stop," she said.

But it wasn't. Not only did she use it throughout the pregnancy, but for four more years after her daughter was born.

"My doctor, because, you know, they test your urine and they test your protein, they were able to pull me into the office and say we're really concerned about you."

Federal statistics show that in the United States, a baby who has been exposed to opioids is born every 25 minutes. Many then need lengthy and expensive hospital stays, and the problem is still only getting worse. 

Hospitals will give babies drugs including morphine and methadone to alleviate their suffering. What's unclear is the long-term effects.

Corr and her colleagues are studying those long-term effects. For now, she encourages all pregnant opioid abusers to go to their obstetrician for help. There are programs out there to guide addicts through pregnancy. 

"She needs to see her OB, let them know that she is pregnant, and I know that is scary for some moms," said Corr.

That is what saved Kate and her baby.

"You're in such a vulnerable, worthless, confused, scared state, but you're absolutely not alone. There are tons of resources out there."

She turned to those resources for help.

"Today I'm a student, I'm a mom, I'm an employee, I'm a fiancee, I'm a daughter, I'm a granddaughter. I'm all those things my addiction really robbed me of."

Her baby was one of the lucky ones. She never had the detectable symptoms of withdrawal, and she is today a healthy, happy elementary school student.

Your OB/GYN will know where you can get help. One difficult story our mother told us is that one night after she put her daughter to bed, she then went out to rob a store. She planned to sell what she stole for drug money, but that was one of the times she got arrested.

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