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St. Vincent's sees increase of heroin-addicted babies

The number of babies born to opiate-addicted mothers has increased in recent years.

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - The epidemic of heroin addiction is affecting the very smallest among the community in Toledo.

A doctor at Mercy St. Vincent's Hospital talked about the alarming rise in babies starting their life addicted.

The number of babies born to opiate-addicted mothers has increased in recent years. According to a physician at Mercy St. V's, the neonatal intensive care unit is more than doubling every year.

Dr. Gagan Brar says that during the heroin epidemic in 2009, only about 9 or 10 babies born at Mercy St. V's were impacted. By 2015, that number spiked to nearly 47, and last year, there were more than 70 babies born to addicted mothers.

These tiny infants can have their own withdrawal symptoms.

"So unless we treat those withdrawal symptoms, these babies will not eat, will not grow," Brar said. "They have a higher incidence of having problems with breathing, with growth and they can have seizures."

Some infants born to addicted mothers are very sensitive to noise and have to be isolated in a quiet area. Some need round-the-clock intensive care.

It's something that deeply impacts the doctors and nurses at the hospital but also the mothers. They're working to help families have better outcomes, even when they've left the hospital.

"They continue to follow up with the person, continue to follow up with the social worker and help them with nutrition, with family planning and things like that," said Brar.

The growing number of babies born addicted to opiates has resulted in all of the staff at Mercy to need new training to deal with the families and the babies, to help them, not just while they are in the hospital, but after they leave their care.