What to expect when you are expecting … and addicted to opioids

Addicted to opioids? Addicted to opioids and pregnant?  At a time when healthcare is needed most in your life, where can you turn for help?

The answer is the CARE clinic in the Women & Infants Center where you will have access to Washington University physicians in the area’s top-rated hospitals (Barnes-Jewish Hospital and St. Louis Children’s Hospital).

Washington University physician Jeannie Kelly, MD, MS, is a high-risk obstetrician and the medical director of CARE — the Clinic for Acceptance Recovery and Empowerment. Dr. Kelly says, “The clinic serves patients who need opioid-addiction treatment along with care for high-risk pregnancies. It is open to all women, insured or not.

These woman are seeking medical attention potentially for the first time in years. We wanted to create a one-stop shop and judgement-free place for these patients. The clinic creates an opportunity to reach women who might otherwise never go to the doctor.”

When used during pregnancy, opioids pass through the mother’s system and into the growing baby, which may cause the baby’s body to become dependent on the drug. Babies who are exposed to opiates during pregnancy are at risk for low birth weight, behavioral problems, developmental delays, learning disabilities, birth defects and stillbirth.  

Many babies will also suffer from neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) after being born. This group of problems (including body shakes, seizures, diarrhea, and fever) occur when a baby withdraws from addictive substances he or she was exposed to while in the womb. Newborns suffering from NAS must stay in the hospital for a longer period of time in order to receive treatment for their symptoms in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

The multidisciplinary team at the CARE clinic includes maternal-fetal medicine specialists, specially-trained nurses, neonatologists, social workers, psychiatrists and therapists – to oversee all aspects of prenatal care and substance abuse treatments.

The highly-skilled team is dedicated to helping women achieve healthier pregnancies and reduce the risk of both pre- and postpartum complications as they face the challenges of an opioid use disorder.

In addition to prenatal care provided by high-risk obstetricians, pregnant women receive substance abuse treatment and care to help alleviate the withdrawal of opioids.

Personalized treatment plans help support the well-being of mother and child not just during pregnancy but for at least one full year postpartum.  Dr. Kelly adds, “We take a holistic approach to helping women overcome their opioid use disorder to achieve a healthier and drug-free life. Our empathetic social workers help new moms learn necessary life and parenting skills, while navigating the uncertainties of housing, unemployment and feeding a family.”

For more information or to make an appointment with the CARE in Pregnancy program, please call 314-454-8181.

Barnes-Jewish Center for Outpatient Health
4901 Forest Park Ave., Suite 710
St. Louis, MO 63108