Dr. Allen Cherer | Neonatal Care & Pediatrics

Dr. Allen Cherer is a neonatal care expert with over 30 years of medical accomplishments to his name.

Tag: childbirth

Providing Care for Drug-exposed Newborns: Time for the Next Step

During the years 1999-2013, the amount of prescription opioids dispensed in the United States nearly quadrupled, and since 2000, it is estimated that opioid use during pregnancy has tripled. Notably, the tragic consequences of the extreme availability of such drugs include abuse, physical dependence, and increasingly, death through inadvertent overdose.

newborn-boy-sleepingIn addition, for the individual pregnant woman, a minimum of two lives is affected: her own and that of her unborn child. The prevalence of prenatally exposed newborns to one or more illicit drugs approximates 6%. Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) refers to the withdrawal symptoms from physical dependence experienced by the newborn exposed during pregnancy generally to illicit drugs, prescribed drugs, or to those opioids employed in medication-assisted treatment of maternal opioid addiction.

Withdrawal symptoms can vary markedly in terms of time of onset and severity but typically manifest as tremulousness, agitation, sleeplessness, and poor feeding. NAS increased threefold from 2000-2009 and frequently requires prolonged newborn hospitalization. It has been reported that aggregate hospital charges for NAS increased from 732 million dollars to 1.5 billion dollars with approximately 80% attributed to state Medicaid programs in 2012. Clearly, NAS is a costly public health problem resulting in significant human suffering and expense.

Traditionally, infants who are known to be at risk for NAS have been monitored in the postpartum unit after birth for at least 96 hours and withdrawal symptoms scored based on the Finnegan Scale developed in the mid 1970’s. Typically, if the scores exceed certain values, the newborn is admitted to a Special Care Unit where pharmacologic treatment is frequently started. As withdrawal symptoms subside, dosing is gradually tapered and ultimately stopped. The newborn is observed off medication and monitored for recurrence of disabling withdrawal symptoms. The entire process can generally result in a prolonged Special Care Unit hospital stay of 2-10 weeks.

With the seemingly overnight explosion in the number of newborns demonstrating withdrawal symptoms in the early 2000’s, medical caregivers and hospitals were caught off-guard. On short notice, staff addiction education, medication and weaning protocols, general care policies, and hospital space allocation were required. After a number of years of concerted, collaborative work, much has been learned and achieved in improving the care of the substance-exposed infant.

Nevertheless, pharmacologic treatment continues to require prolonged hospital stays, often in costly Special Care Units. In addition, it effectively excludes full participation by the eventual sole primary caregivers, ideally the parents. It is with these disturbing issues in mind that it is refreshing to note the work and studies over the past several years to further optimize the care provided to infants with NAS and their families.

One of the earlier studies to suggest the therapeutic benefits of a different approach to caring for the drug-exposed infant was that of Abrahams et al. published in the Canadian Family Physician in 2007. During the same period of frenzy involving inpatient hospital transfers, guaranteeing interobserver scoring reliability, pharmacologic treatment protocols, and nursing care directives, the Canadian group with extensive previous experience in addiction medicine reported in a retrospective cohort study the benefits of a rooming-in policy whereby infants remained with their mothers as primary caretakers.

They noted that infants who roomed-in were less likely to require pharmacologic therapy for withdrawal and more likely to be discharged to mother’s care compared to infant’s who received standard nursery care. Subsequently, other retrospective cohort studies both in Europe and the United States demonstrated equally beneficial effects of rooming-in regarding decreased requirement for pharmacologic therapy and decreased duration of hospital stay.

Most recently, the results of a quality collaborative project from the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth Hitchcock were described in the May, 2016 Pediatrics and demonstrated the beneficial effects of combined standardized protocols and family-centered care in the management of the drug-exposed infant. Over time, the project safely reduced the number of infants requiring pharmacologic therapy, average length of stay, and overall hospital costs.

Among others, key drivers to success were prenatal education of family caregivers including expressed expectation that they would provide meaningful rooming-in care, baby-centered NAS scoring including on demand feeding schedules, pharmacologic therapy when necessary with dosing adjustment based on overall infant condition rather than solely Finnegan score and determined by a consistent team, and an infant “snuggler” volunteer program to assist families when times required their absence.

Overall, the project demonstrated that despite many practical obstacles to providing high quality care for drug-exposed newborns and their families in the hospital setting, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Reflections on Cesarean Section Rates

Cesarean section delivery is among the most common surgical procedures. It is estimated that in 2012 alone, over 22 million cesarean deliveries were performed worldwide. Data from the National Vital Statistics show that the total cesarean section rate in the U.S. in 1996 was approximately 21%.

Since that time, there has been a rapid increase in the rate, such that in 2011, close to 1 in 3 mothers delivered by cesarean. Although the rate has leveled since then, there remains no evidence that such a significant increase has been accompanied by a concomitant decrease in maternal or neonatal mortality.

Although cesarean delivery can be life-saving for the fetus, the mother, or both in certain cases, the concern exists that cesarean delivery is overused. Hence, the matter is a global health issue. Since one of the main driving forces for the increased total cesarean rate has been a marked shift to repeat cesarean delivery following a previous primary cesarean section, a concerted effort over the past several years has been to examine closely the factors related to the safe management of the nulliparous pregnancy.

As early as 1985, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated there was no justification for any region to have a cesarean delivery rate greater than 10-15 /100 live births. Nevertheless, the rates continued to increase worldwide with no scientific evidence indicative of substantial maternal or perinatal benefit.

In fact, a number of studies have associated higher rates of cesarean deliveries with negative consequences, including increased maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality as well as increased consumption of limited health resources by procedures without medical indications.

In March 2014, a consensus report was issued by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine on the safe prevention of the primary cesarean section. Among other points, it addressed management guidelines for the most frequent indications for primary cesarean deliveries, namely, labor dystocia, abnormal or indeterminate fetal heart rate tracing, fetal malpresentation, multiple gestation, and suspected macrosomia.

The report encouraged obstetricians to allow more time to progress through a vaginal delivery without intervention, recommended improved and standardized fetal heart rate interpretation and management, and advocated access to non-medical interventionsduring labor, such as continuous labor and delivery support.

A study by researchers at Harvard Medical School and the Stanford University School of Medicine published December 2015 in The Journal of the American Medical Association suggested that based on analyses of cesarean section rates and maternal and neonatal outcomes among 194 WHO member countries the ideal rate of childbirth by cesarean section approximates 19% of all births as opposed tothe previously considered optimal rate of 10-15%. Although the finding is higher than the former target, it remains significantly lower than the current rate in U.S. hospitals.

In its April 2015 position statement on cesarean delivery, the WHO moved away from any target rate. Rather, it emphasized that every effort should be made to ensure cesarean sections are provided to the women in need and only be performed when medically necessary.

It is gratifying that the concept of “target rate” is no longer tied to the delivery of quality medical care. Primarily due to the lack of a consistent classification system to monitor and compare different obstetric profiles, meaningful data relative to cesarean section rates is missing.

It is only when such systems as the Robson Ten Group Classification System are widely adopted by institutions that valid “risk-adjusted”cesarean section rates can potentially be developed and comparisons be made between institutions, regions, and countries.

Physical Trauma and Pregnancy

Trauma is an important cause of maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality, and blunt abdominal trauma is a particular concern. Approximately 8% of pregnant women sustain some form of traumatic injury. Automobile accidents and falls account for most of the injuries.

Studies of pregnant women involved in automobile accidents have demonstrated increased rates of premature rupture of membranes, placental abruption, preterm birth, and stillbirth. A recent study examines pregnancies complicated by traumatic injuries and outcomes in relation to place of triage.

According to the retrospective study published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, pregnant women who sustained traumatic injuries and were triaged to trauma centers experienced improved pregnancy outcomes compared to women cared for in non-trauma hospitals. For the study, the researchers linked two databases, the Washington State Birth Events Records Database and the Comprehensive Hospital Abstract Recording System.

The method allowed them to assess the maternal and neonatal outcomes of all injured, pregnant women (3429 patients) who were hospitalized in Washington State between the years 1995 and 2012. The findings showed that after adjusting for a number of confounding factors, including injury severity score, pregnant women who were cared for in trauma facilities had better outcomes with significantly decreased odds of preterm labor, preterm birth, and low birth weight infants.

Since trauma centers are specialized medical facilities which have optimal processes and resources in place to monitor and treat injured patients, the study suggests that many injured, pregnant women may in fact be under-triaged and treated in non-trauma hospitals where their care may not be optimal.

According to the coauthors, John Distelhorst, DO, MPH and Vijay Krishnamoorthy, MD, the findings may lead to further analyses of state trauma systems and the triage of specific patient populations to improve quality of care and patient outcomes. To read more about this, please visit this site. 

 

Eating Tips for Your Pregnancy

The nutritional status of women when becoming pregnant and during pregnancy can have significant influence on infant and maternal health problems. Numerous studies of nutritional education and counseling before and during pregnancy have demonstrated beneficial effects in terms of improved gestational weight, increased head circumference, reduced risk of preterm birth, and reduced risk at birth of maternal anemia.

A pregnant woman needs to ensure that her diet provides enough nutrients and energy for her baby to grow and develop properly and also to make sure her body is capable of sustaining the multiple demands that come with pregnancy. Caloric intake grows with pregnancy and weight gain varies considerably. For the average healthy woman, ideal weight gain is 25-35 lbs during the nine month pregnancy.

nutritional education

 

Either excessive or insufficient weight gain can be deleterious to the health of both the baby and the mother. In general, mother’s diet needs to be balanced and nutritious, involving right proportions of protein, carbohydrate, and fat while consuming a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.

Specifically, fat should provide no more than 30% of daily calories with monosaturated fats being preferable. Examples are foods such as olive oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, canola oil, avocado, and many nuts and seeds. Excellent sources of carbohydrates are potatoes, rice, pasta, and bread.

avocadonuts

Animal-sourced protein includes lean meat and fish, as well as eggs. Beans, lentils, and legumes are good sources of protein as well as being rich in iron. Quinoa is notable as a source of all the essential amino acids. As far as fruits and vegetables, fresh and frozen produce usually have higher vitamin and nutrient content as well as being excellent sources of fiber.

Micronutrient deficiencies can be addressed through diet as well as supplements. The value of prenatal vitamins cannot be overemphasized. Folic acid, iron, vitamin D, calcium, iodine, and zinc are especially important during pregnancy. Adequate folic acid before and during pregnancy is critical in preventing neural tube defects which affect the brain and spinal cord. Recommended daily intake is 400-600 mcg.

During pregnancy, maternal blood volume increases significantly and adequate iron supplementation is required to prevent anemia and promote adequate oxygen carrying capacity. Vitamin D deficiency is common even in the non-pregnant state. Adequate Vitamin D during pregnancy is critical for normal fetal skeletal development and may be beneficial in mother to prevent preeclampsia.

Recommended dose is controversial and ranges from 600-4000 IU/day. Iodine is important for normal fetal thyroid development and function.

Clearly, pregnancy places impressive metabolic demands on the mother’s body. Only through nutritional education and counseling can the best outcomes for both mother and baby be achieved.

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