(WBIR) Expecting mothers addicted to drugs during pregnancy is a growing problem in East Tennessee.
Dr. Terry King, Clinical Pharmacist for East Tennessee Children's Hospital, said, "We admit probably around 275 babies a year. So, nearly every other day we have a baby admitted to our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) that has symptoms of drug withdrawal."
Dr. King said the symptoms of the drug dependant babies are similar to those of an adult going through drug withdrawal. The infant experiences tremors, muscles, sweating, fast breathing, and aches.
A 2010 National Survey of Drug Use and Health found an estimated 4.4 percent of pregnant women reported using an illicit substance during pregnancy.
Dr. Jennifer Maddron of Life Springs Women's Healthcare in Sevierville said in 2011, 10 percent of Sevierville's pregnant women tested positive for drug use before giving birth.
"We're seeing this as a pretty big problem in our county," Dr. Maddron said.
Another problem Dr. Maddron said is a lack of help for drug-addicted pregnant woman in Sevier County, which is why she and several others have formed Moms on Meds (MOMs).
Dr. Maddron said, "We know that during pregnancy most women are going to look at their behaviors and how they affect themselves and their unborn children. So it's a perfect opportunity to provide intervention to improve outcomes for the mom and the baby."
MOMs main goal is to raise awareness and screen pregnant women. MOMs will work with those who test positive, by helping to provide the necessary treatment with the assistance of several agencies in the surrounding counties.
"It's not punitive. It's to be supportive and provide that counseling and assistance for them," said Dr. Maddron.
Doctors say in order to make sure the babies are okay, they must make sure its mother is okay.
Dr. King said, "In this relationship with the mom-baby, it's very important that we offer some support for the mother so they can get help to treat their addiction if they have it."
MOMs will have a community forum on August 16th at First United Methodist Church (214 Cedar Street, Sevierville) from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. Representatives from various agencies from across the state are expected to be on hand to talk about substance abuse during pregnancy.
For more information, call (865) 453-WELL (9355).