Help is here preventing infant substance exposure

As Delaware continues to struggle with an addiction epidemic, substance exposure in infants has been getting worse, but the state is taking steps to combat that problem.

In 2016, there were 431 reports of substance exposed infants in Delaware, more than 100 from the previous year, and the Division of Public Health has come up with materials for OB/GYN's on how to screen pregnant women for addiction, connect them to treatment and educate them about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

You can access the materials for OB/GYN's here.

Marijuana and opioids are commonly reported substances at birth, but there not the only problem substances.

"Alcohol is the number one cause for preventable birth defects," said Emily Knearl, the director of communications with the Division of Public Health. "It is never safe to even drink one drop of alcohol while pregnant."

Knearl added lots of women don't realize what kind of damage any amount of alcohol can do when they're pregnant, so the education is important in this process.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder could be an effect from alcohol consumption when pregnant, and it causes brain damage and growth issues.

Knearl's adoptive son was diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder as his biological mother consumed alcohol and took opioids while she was pregnant.

"My son as well as other children who are exposed to alcohol and drugs during their birth, he struggles with cognitive challenges, he's very small, he's got low muscle tone, he's got emotional issues, he's got decision making issues, he's got sensory integration issues," said Knearl.

Knearl added that he also has permanent brain damage, and he also went through withdrawal after birth.

He has since graduated from physical and occupational therapy a year ago, but he does go through therapy multiple times a week.

Knearl said he has challenges every single day, but he makes progress every single day. She adds he has exceeded all expectations.