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Magee Opens Mom-Centered Program to Improve Outcomes of Newborns Experiencing Opioid Withdrawal

PITTSBURGH, July 2, 2018 UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital has opened a rooming-in pilot program designed to support close, uninterrupted contact between opioid-dependent women and their infants experiencing withdrawal. The six-bed Parent Partnership Unit (PPU) will encourage more successful mother-infant bonding that will decrease the need for pharmacologic treatment to control withdrawal symptoms, shorten the time spent in a hospital setting, and teach the mothers how they can provide a safe and secure home environment when mom and baby are discharged. 
Typically, newborns that were exposed to opioids in utero are temporarily separated from their mothers immediately after birth for observation and treatment in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to manage the symptoms of withdrawal, or neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). The affected babies can have high-pitched crying, tight muscle tone, vomiting and diarrhea. While the NICU setting allows for successful management of NAS, the temporary separation of baby from mother can impede or delay mother-infant bonding and skin-to-skin contact, which can result in more severe NAS symptoms. 
“It is incredibly difficult for any new mom to be separated from their baby or leave the hospital with their newborn in the NICU. The PPU will change this dynamic by allowing mothers who are discharged from the hospital to stay with their baby 24/7 while learning how to care for their high-need baby,” explains Patty Genday, executive director of women’s services at Magee.
The PPU offers family centric care with a specific focus on increased physical contact between mother and baby. Research has shown that increasing contact by rooming a baby with their mother can safely reduce the need for pharmacologic therapy for NAS. A mother enrolled in the PPU will stay with her baby in a room specifically designed to accommodate the care required for a NAS baby and the mother’s extended stay. During the stay, the mother will attend daily educational/self-care classes to enhance the transition to motherhood with a focus on caring for her newborn—including baby care, creating a safe home environment, breastfeeding/feeding support, accessing community resources and yoga.
“A mother’s love can be more powerful than medicine,” said Genday. “By increasing bonding in the PPU we not only will help normalize the postpartum experience for many women, but it will help their baby recover quicker and hopefully without medication.”
Women eligible for the PPU must participate actively in recovery care, receive consistent methadone or buprenorphine during pregnancy through a licensed provider, be an active participant in prenatal care and agree to actively care for their newborn—including feeding, diapering, bathing and skin-to-skin touch.
The PPU is funded through grants from the 25 Club, which supports neonatal medicine and research, and Purdue Pharma.

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