A newborn infant exposed to addictive drugs in the uterus may face a series of health problems after birth known as neonatal abstinence syndrome.
Babies with NAS can be born underweight, have respiratory complications and experience seizures. A decade ago, only about one baby per year was born in Indiana with NAS. But by 2012, that number had increased to one a week, according to the Department of Health.
That’s why Sen. Vaneta Becker, R-Evansville, wants to propose legislation next year that would require medical professionals to report cases of NAS. Becker says reporting is the first step in helping the problem, but it’s not the only solution her legislation will propose.
“So we also want for women to have the ability to seek treatment without repercussion,” says Becker. “So if we have the reporting information to the State Board of Health that will allow health officials to identify cases more quickly and accurately and to save lives basically, both women and babies.”
Larry Humbert is the executive director for the Indiana Perinatal Network and has worked on NAS intervention for the last seven years. He says if doctors were required to report cases of NAS it would help his organization work towards solutions.
But Humbert says getting to the root of the problem with the drug use by the mother is the only way to reduce NAS cases.
“If you can identify, and care for, and nurture for the mother during the pregnancy, you’ll do a much better job caring for a nurturing the baby,” he says.
Becker is currently working with the Attorney General to draft legislation to propose in the next session.