The shortage of drug treatment for pregnant women can endanger fetuses, experts tell USA Today.
Fewer than 2,000 of the 11,000 treatment facilities listed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration include services for pregnant women.
"In many communities, women are left with very few options," said Stephen Patrick of Vanderbilt University, who published a recent study on neonatal abstinence syndrome, which affects babies born to mothers dependent on opioids.
Patrick found the overall incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome nearly doubled in four years nationally, with one affected baby born every 25 minutes by 2012. His study found 28 percent of pregnant Medicaid recipients in Tennessee had filled at least one opioid prescription.
Dawn Forbes, a neonatologist at Kosair Children's Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, said even a few days' wait for treatment can cause pregnant women to turn away, which endangers their growing fetus. "When people hit rock bottom, there's a small window to get them into treatment," she said.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this year found the number of babies treated for neonatal abstinence syndrome has almost quadrupled in the last decade.
Babies born with the syndrome undergo withdrawal from the addictive drugs their mothers took during pregnancy, such as oxycodone, morphine or hydrocodone.
The syndrome affected seven babies for every 1,000 admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in 2004. That number jumped to 27 infants per 1,000 by 2013.
The percentage of days spent in a NICU because of drug withdrawal rose from 0.6 percent to 4 percent during that time. Eight centers reported that more than 20 percent of NICU days were spent caring for babies with the syndrome in 2013.