July 13, 2016 – The March of Dimes Alabama has awarded a grant to Regional Medical Center to support the screening and treatment of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) in Alabama, a program that fills an unmet maternal and child health need here. This important program at RMC will enhance and provide education and services for populations at the greatest risk for preterm birth and educate area providers about this critical health problem. Funding by March of Dimes Alabama to support RMC’s NAS program was awarded in a grant totaling $20,000 to assist with this project.
This grant is one of the ways the March of Dimes helps fulfill its mission to prevent prematurity, birth defects, and infant mortality. In 2003 the Prematurity Campaign was launched to address the increasing rate of premature birth. In Alabama, the rate is 13.1% giving the state an “F” on the 2015 Prematurity Report Card.
“We found that there are large gaps in maternal and child health outcomes of expectant mothers, especially among African American and Hispanic women across Alabama.” said Kimberly Seals, March of Dimes State Director of Program Services. “We are grateful that our successful fundraising efforts, such as March for Babies, make it possible for us to support new programs in Alabama that can help more babies be born healthy and have a fighting chance at life.”
According to Shelley Birchfield, OB nurse manager at RMC, in a 2016 statement released by Narcon International, the occurrence of babies born addicted to drugs has increased substantially —more than 500 percent— over a 12-year period (2000 to 2012). A recent study by the University of Michigan estimates that every 25 minutes in the U.S. a baby is born suffering from opiate withdrawal and that more than 13,539 babies are born with NAS [Neo-Natal Abstinence Syndrome] each year.
During pregnancy, babies form a physical dependence on substances used by their mothers. And after birth, they experience withdrawal, just like adults. NAS is a painful condition causing withdrawal symptoms that can include high-pitched crying, tremors, hyperactive reflexes, inconsolability and even seizures. While an opioid drug dependency in newborns is more common (often prescribed for pain management and addiction recovery), others can include anxiety and sleep medicines, other painkillers, illegal drugs or certain other prescription medicine.
Regional Medical Center (RMC) in Anniston has embarked upon this new program to promote prevention and early identification of mothers needing treatment as well as treatment for babies. After evaluation and diagnosis, babies may need specialized treatment. The treatment protocol for babies born with NAS will assist in a healthier mom and baby.
Trained volunteer “cuddlers” and non-medical interventions are also key to soothing babies with NAS. Babies are swaddled in private rooms that are kept quiet and dark, avoiding overstimulation.
“It is a program from our hearts,” said Shelley Birchfield, OB nurse manager. “It is so gratifying to help these moms and babies have a better chance at life, to help them find a new beginning.”
The obstetrics department at RMC is currently seeking applicants for volunteer ‘Cuddlers’. Specially trained volunteers provide comfort measures to infants at risk for Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) on RMC’s OB unit. These trained Cuddlers help comfort babies who may have symptoms such as irritability, tremors, may feed poorly, and have a need to be held. For those interested in applying for the RMC “Cuddler” volunteer program, please contact OB Services at 256.235.5132 ext. 3.
About the March of Dimes
The March of Dimes is a national voluntary health agency whose mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. Founded in 1938, the March of Dimes funds programs of research, community services, education, and advocacy to save babies and in 2003 launched a campaign to address the increasing rate of premature birth. For more information, visit the March of Dimes Web site at marchofdimes.com or its Spanish language Web site at nacersano.org.
About Regional Medical Center
With 338 inpatient beds at Regional Medical Center (RMC) Anniston, 89 beds at RMC Jacksonville, and numerous outpatient facilities and services, RMC is the provider of choice for over 13,500 inpatients, 81,000 outpatients, 1,750 newborn deliveries and 55,000 emergency room visits each year. Services include cardiovascular, oncology, orthopedic and women’s/ children’s, as well as most major specialties for the right care close to home. More than 1,600 employees, 300 volunteers and 200 physicians in a full range of specialties provide state-of-the-art healthcare with integrity, skill and compassion. RMC is accredited by the American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer, is an affiliate in the UAB Cancer Care Network, is recognized by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama as a Blue Distinction Centers+ for Knee and Hip Replacement® and Maternity Care, and is the first Baby-Friendly birthing facility in Alabama. For more information, visit www.RMCcares.org.