Experts Say States Should Stop Criminalizing Substance Use in Pregnancy

    A growing number of experts are calling for changes to laws that criminalize substance use in pregnancy, NBC News reports.

    Twenty-five states and Washington, D.C., consider substance use during pregnancy to be child abuse, the article notes. Experts, including obstetricians, addiction specialists and federal health officials, are calling for changes to these state laws.

    “We should remove criminalization of women who are pregnant and taking drugs,” Dr. Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told NBC News. “That needs to stop.” She said the top cause of preventable death among pregnant and postpartum women is overdose.

    Doctors say addiction treatments such as methadone and buprenorphine during pregnancy are safe for mother and baby. They can reduce cravings and help mothers carry a pregnancy full term, without long-lasting effects on the baby.

    A new study of pregnant women in Massachusetts found their decision whether to take medication to treat addiction was based on what they thought would happen with respect to mandated reporting to Child Protective Services when they gave birth.