Posted on Jan 30, 2014

Dr. Denise Maguire conducts innovative research on mothers with drug addiction and their babies

Dr. Denise Maguire conducts innovative research on mothers with drug addiction and their babies

University of South Florida College of Nursing Assistant Professor, Denise Maguire, PhD, RN, CNL, is conducting groundbreaking research in perinatal substance abuse to improve the healthcare of mothers with drug addiction and their newborn babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Dr. Maguire, who has been a neonatal nurse for more than 30 years, is one of the few nurses in the country to conduct this type of research. In the last few years she has published three major papers focused on drug addiction in pregnancy and infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).

University of South Florida College of Nursing Assistant Professor, Denise J. Maguire, PhD, RN, CNL
USF College of Nursing Assistant Professor, Denise Maguire, PhD, RN, CNL

“Drug addiction is a huge problem in Florida,” Dr. Maguire said. “A lot of people don’t know this but drug addiction is a chronic disease and not a choice. So, unless the drug addict is treated, they will always be an addict and, unfortunately, having babies. Research shows that 80 percent of the babies born to mothers with drug addiction suffer from neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). Therefore, nurses have a great opportunity to find solutions and develop interventions that will help expecting mothers confront their addiction and improve their parenting skills after their babies are born.”

According to the Office of the Attorney General of Florida’s website, NAS is an adverse health effect created from prescription drug abuse during pregnancy. Infants with NAS suffer from withdrawal symptoms such as tremors, abdominal pain, incessant crying, and rapid breathing. In 2011, there were 1,563 instances of newborns diagnosed with drug exposure in Florida, reports show. Due to these symptoms, it is difficult for mothers to take care of their babies who end up in NICU.

“The moms have a difficult time with their babies in withdrawal because they’re so irritable and grumpy,” Dr. Maguire said. “The babies also do not make eye contact with the moms. So, this frustrates moms because they think that their baby does not like them. This makes them feel even more guilty about being addicted causing their baby so much pain, which feeds into more depression and possibly more drugs.”

To understand the phenomena, Dr. Maguire recently published results from two groundbreaking studies titled Validation of the Finnegan Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Tool-short Form, and Nurses Lived Experience: Caring for Infants with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. She also published two other papers focused on management of mothers on drugs and their infants: Mothers on Methadone: Care in NICU and Drug Addiction in Pregnancy: Disease Not Moral Failure. Both of these papers were published in the Neonatal Network, a journal widely read by neonatal nurses . Dr. Maguire said her research was inspired by a study on NICU nurses lived experience conducted by USF College of Nursing Professor Mary Webb, PhD, RN. Dr. Maguire was a co-investigator on Dr. Webb’s study.

” I wrote the paper about caring for mothers on methadone because I wanted to educate nurses about the scientific reason behind managing women on drugs,” Dr. Maguire said. “And my paper on drug addiction in pregnancy gives nurses an understanding that drug addiction is a disease and not a moral failure-which is a common misconception among nurses.”

Dr. Maguire’s work with perinatal substance abuse doesn’t stop there. She recently took part in a Statewide Task Force on Prescription Drug Abuse and Newborns, led by Florida Attorney General, Pam Bondi, to evaluate evidence-based methods for caring for infants with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). She was part of a sub-group of the statewide task-force composed of medical professionals and prevention experts to help make recommendations and assess evidence-based methods to care for newborns with NAS. She is also working on two funded studies which will expand her previous research.

“I am currently videotaping mothers and babies in NICU during a feeding session to evaluate how the baby responds  to the mother and vice-versa,” Dr. Maguire said. “The findings from this study will help me to develop an intervention which will help moms promote the infant’s behavioral regulation. I believe that if we improve the mother-baby relationship we could potentially impact the longevity of the mother’s recovery from drugs.”

For related stories on Dr. Denise Maguire visit the USF College of Nursing News Page here.