Medically supervised drug detox helps expectant moms break addiction cycle
Emily Brough, 36, has known too many people who died from heroin. One was a close high school friend who died in her arms just a week before Emily found out she was pregnant.
Emily vowed to do whatever it took to get sober and give her baby a healthy start in life.
She struggled to detox on her own until a local resource referred her to the Norton Maternal Opiate and Substance Treatment (MOST) Program. She called that very day — Aug. 4, 2017. She remembers it clearly, because the call changed her life.
She talked with Tessa Franklin, R.N., the Norton MOST Program’s nurse navigator. According to Tessa, the program provides treatment for each mom’s substance use disorder while also caring for her pregnancy. Proper medical treatment, nonjudgmental support and effective follow-up work together to break the mom’s cycle of addiction and help her have a healthy baby.
Drug detox services for pregnant women can be hard to find. According to Tessa, expectant moms battling substance use disorder find comfort knowing the Norton MOST Program team has the knowledge and experience to meet their specific needs during a difficult time.
Detoxifying the body and beginning the healing
Emily had been a heavy drinker since her mid-20s. She tried repeatedly to quit, but “couldn’t keep it together” and began using opioids.
Emily called the Norton MOST Program on a Friday. She was scheduled to come to Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital the following Monday, since the program typically doesn’t do weekend admissions. After additional calls, the program arranged for Emily to be admitted that Sunday.
“Talking to Tessa could have made or broken me,” Emily said. “She was so kind.”
Emily recalls that within the first 10 hours of treatment she felt “well” for the first time in years. Typical treatment focuses first on ridding the body of drugs and other toxins while easing cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
After four days, Emily was discharged. That’s when the program’s extensive support services kicked in.
The team strives to look at each woman as an individual. The team works diligently to connect the expectant mom with ongoing resources based on her specific needs.
Emily got help navigating social services and community resources. She was set up with an OB/GYN who could handle her higher-risk needs.
Babies born to women dependent on opiates or alcohol can be born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, conditions that result from the baby’s exposure to substances the mother used while pregnant. They can experience serious complications that call for extended inpatient care.
“When I went into delivery in December 2017 I was scared for my baby, but Ella’s scores were excellent,” Emily said. “She’s my miracle.”
Treating the underlying cause of self-medication
A psychiatrist who Emily saw through the Norton MOST Program diagnosed her with bipolar disorder and clinical depression. The doctor told Emily many addictions start with “self-medicating” for undiagnosed conditions. According to Emily, getting on the right medications was “another life-changing miracle.”
Emily is active in a 12-step recovery program and attends meetings daily. She sponsors seven other women and shares her story in the hope of helping others who want to get sober.
She thanks those who never gave up on her, especially her husband. She and her family cherish time with Ella, whose first attempts at walking delight her older siblings.
Emily praises the Norton MOST Program staff for their compassion and dedication. She is especially grateful to Tessa.
The two women have formed a close bond. When they occasionally run into each other, Tessa describes what happens.
“I grab up sweet baby Ella and love on her like she’s my own. Then I love on Emily too,” she said. “To see Emily now, mothering, sponsoring other women, living her life and telling her story is amazing. She is the definition of a strong woman.”
Emily wants those who face difficulties to know that drugs or alcohol aren’t the answer.
“I’m loving life now,” she said.