The Delaware Division of Public Health, responding to input from obstetrics and gynecology providers, announced Sept. 14 new guidance and educational materials on the dangers of substance abuse while pregnant and how to screen pregnant women for potential addiction and connect them with treatment.

The materials are available at

In 2016, there were 431 reports of substance-exposed infants to the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families, an increase from 2015.

The two common substances found at birth in Delaware are marijuana and opioids, which are tied to short and/or long term negative consequences for the infant. Alcohol exposure, which has documented long term negative impacts on an infant, is not possible to detect immediately after birth, but remains a problem throughout the country.

“Pregnant women often do not realize the extent to which even minimal alcohol and drug use can harm their baby,” said DPH Director Karyl Rattay. “We also know that women struggling with addiction are less likely to access prenatal care and are significantly more likely to have an unplanned pregnancy. We want to work with the medical and treatment communities to increase awareness about the dangers of substance use while pregnant and connect those struggling with addiction to treatment.”

Delaware’s law, the Medical Practice Act, requires certified medical providers to give written, verbal and posted warnings to pregnant women regarding possible problems, complications, and injuries to them and/or to the fetus from consuming or using alcohol or cocaine, marijuana, heroin and other narcotics during pregnancy — Delaware Code, Title 24, Chapter 17 (Medical Practice Act), Subchapter V, §1769A.

Under House Concurrent Resolution 44 — sponsored by Rep. Ruth Briggs King and Sen. Ernie Lopez — the general assembly designated Sept. 17-23 as “Awareness Week for the Prevention, Recognition, and Treatment of Prenatal Substance Exposure in Infants and to Support Healthy Families in Delaware.”