As rates of maternal opioid use have surged over the past decade, so too have rates of adverse pregnancy outcomes. In fact, opiate use is associated with a six-fold increased risk for miscarriage, prematurity, delayed infant neurological development, and neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).
“Although pregnancy is a particularly dangerous time to face opioid dependence, we find that women are often motivated to seek treatment while pregnant,” says Sindhu K. Srinivas, MD, MSCE, Director of Obstetrical Services at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. “Unfortunately, some of these women may relapse during the early postnatal months, and many women do not use healthcare services between pregnancies.”
Making a Difference
Enter Penn Medicine’s Perinatal Center of Excellence, also known as Mothers MATTER: a grant-funded program launched in collaboration with the Penn Presbyterian Medical Center and Maternity Care Coalition, a community agency.
“It takes a village to ensure that women with opiate use disorders are abstinent from opiates and other substances of abuse during pregnancy and during the postnatal period when bonding with their baby is critical,” says Neill Epperson, MD, Director of the Penn Center for Women’s Behavioral Wellness and the Mothers MATTER Program.
Mothers MATTER offers comprehensive, compassionate care for pregnant and postpartum women whose lives have been impacted by opioid dependence. The program aims to reduce post pregnancy relapse rates by addressing social and psychological barriers to rehabilitation, which can complicate treatment for opiate dependence.
“Patients are screened by our specialists and connected to behavioral health services and support they might need both during and after pregnancy,” says Catherine R. Salva, MD, Medical Director of the Helen O. Dickens Center for Women’s Health at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
“Coordination is critical to link women to the services that will support them in their recovery, ” says Carrie Malanga, RN, PMHNP, Program Manager for Mothers MATTER.
“One of the strengths of Mothers MATTER is that we pull these services together to help mothers prepare to bring their baby home and address substance use.”
The program focuses on pregnant women with opiate use disorder, but those with other substance use disorders and women who are not pregnant may qualify.
“Because Mothers MATTER is an inclusive program, we strongly urge community physicians to refer any patient who has a known addiction, uses opiates for chronic pain, or faces a one or more psychological disorders,” says Hannah Gross-Eskin, LSW, Interdisciplinary Care Coordinator for Mothers MATTER. “Patients do not have to receive care from a Penn provider; we welcome any patient who could benefit from this program.”