SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (News4Utah) – Pregnant and addicted. It’s hardly ever talked about, but it happens more often than you might think. In fact, up to around 20% of women who are already pregnant are prescribed opioids. Every 25 minutes a baby is born suffering from withdrawal.
There’s already stigma for those who are addicted to drugs–Add on women who are pregnant. Many of these women never speak up about their addiction. But these women could be your mother, sister, neighbor, or loved one.
“I know a lot of women are suffering in silence at home,” says 33-year-old Lindsay Allred, “I felt that euphoric feeling I think that us drug addicts feel.”
Doctors prescribed Lindsay pain medication after a snowboarding accident and dental surgery.
“I took those pills and I was instantly hooked,” says Lindsay.
Lindsay dropped out of high school, and placed her baby up for adoption. The addiction altered Lindsay’s judgment. She would get pregnant two more times, all while taking prescribed medication.
“There were times where I did abuse them. I carried a lot of guilt because of that…luckily they weren’t born addicted.”
There is somewhere pregnant women can go to get help. The Substance Use in Pregnancy Recovery Addiction Dependence Clinic, or SUPRAD, through the University of Utah works with women in this situation. It is the only clinic of its kind in the Intermountain West.
“It’s a specialty prenatal clinic that integrates maternal fetal medicine, addiction specialist, resource management,” says Dr. Marcela Smid, the Clinical Director of the SUPRAD Clinic.
Dr. Smid explains, “We actually transition them either to Methadone or Buprenorphine, either Suboxone or Subutex, depending on a conversation that we have with them and talking about all the risks and benefits, but weaning is actually not recommended. Some people call it detox. We transition people because the evidence for both pregnant women and non-pregnant women, or really people in general, is that medication treatment coupled with behavioral therapy is the most evidence based approach.”
There are many health challenges an expectant, addicted mother may face, but it’s the baby’s health that can be most concerning. They can be born addicted and in withdrawal. That is called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS.
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, a baby is born every 25 minutes with NAS.
“Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome is a treatable condition,” says Dr. Smid.
Dr. Smid also says it is important to treat these women in an entirely judgment free zone. She says, “We treat this like any other chronic medical condition…treating women with opioid use disorder or any substance use disorder is like diabetes, or high blood pressure, or any other medical condition.”
Dr. Smid and others at the clinic say they’re proud of their patients.
“We have the privilege of taking care of women in this time that they’re most willing to do things for themselves and for their babies,” says Dr. Smid.
Dr. Terry Sellers, who works with Renaissance Ranch in Sandy, also knows a lot about pregnancy and addiction. Dr. Sellers is a board certified physician who is certified in addiction medicine. He is also a former OBGYN and recovering drug addict. Dr. Sellers believes you can safely wean pregnant women off drugs.
“There is evidence you can wean and not as dangerous as once thought,” says Dr. Seller.
After a decade of drug abuse, Lindsay says a spiritual awakening was a turning point. She is now six months pregnant with her fourth child, and it may be a lifetime of struggle and recovery. But she is excited and optimistic for the future. Lindsay encourages others who are struggling with addiction to ask for help.
“They don’t have to be alone, and there is no shame in asking for help,” says Lindsay.
Lindsay now counsels other women at Renaissance Ranch in Sandy.
The SUPRAD Clinic is located in Daybreak, just off the Trax line, and is open once a week on Mondays.
If you or someone you know needs help with substance use during pregnancy you can call the SUPRAD Clinic at: (801) 581-8425
You can also call Renaissance Ranch Outpatient Treatment Center at: (801) 572-4325
If it is an emergency, dial 911.