Drug overdose is currently the leading cause of death in pregnant and postpartum women in Illinois. Since 2008, pregnancy-associated deaths from opioid overdoses have increased 1,000%.
That fact comes from the Illinois Department of Public Health and is the reason why the Illinois Perinatal Quality Collaborative, or ILPQC, started a Mothers and Newborns Affected by Opioids nitiative in which two OSF HealthCare hospitals are taking part.
One is St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Ottawa, according to a news release from OSF HealthCare. In 2017, La Salle County was in the top five counties in the state for fatal opioid overdoses. In the year St. Elizabeth's Family Birthing Center has been involved in the ILPQC project, it has identified and helped mothers with substance use disorder.
All patients are screened using a validating screening tool — where broader questions about possible drug use involving the mother, her partner, family and friends — which has helped bring this issue to the surface and helped connect mothers to resources they may need while improving education for special infant care.
Education and awareness is helping destigmatize opioid use disorder and lets the mother know that the hospital staff is there to help.
"Identify these women early on in their pregnancy, before they deliver," said Annabel Tomas, director of the Family Birth Center at OSF St. Elizabeth. "But also get the babies help, too. Because we see withdrawal symptoms with the baby, too. So, it's keeping moms and babies together — that is our focus. But also with opioid use disorder being the No. 1 leading cause of maternal death in Illinois, it's keeping these mothers alive."
Through this new approach they also discovered that most mothers want help, they just don't know where to get it.
"We try to coordinate with them," said Sandra Crawley, a registered nurse at St. Elizabeth's Family Birthing Center. "With different clinics, with different treatment centers. We try to coordinate through the doctors to find earlier interventions for them."
Crawley said coordination includes the mother's OB physicians, pediatricians and their family. As part of the initiative employees have put together a list of resource references for mothers and families. Because the newborn also can be affected, this initiative emphasizes immediate, intimate care of the baby by its mother while attempting to decrease length of stay and pharmacological use.
Tomas says the Mothers and Newborns Opioids Use Disorder initiative has and will continue to be best practice for St. Elizabeth's Family Birthing Center.
In Illinois, 88 birthing hospitals are participating in the ILPQC MNO initiative.
In addition to OSF St. Elizabeth, the project also was undertaken by the OB department at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria. The goal is to have all OSF birth centers involved in the future.