Veronica Garcia

A Mommies Success

When Veronica Garcia sought help for her opioid addiction and found out she was pregnant, she was terrified.

“I didn’t know what to do,” said Garcia, who turned to the Center for Health Care Services for help breaking her addiction. “I was scared. Irma talked to me and said everything would be okay.”

Irma Sanchez, a nurse and the coordinator of the Mommies program, which is a collaborative effort between University Health System and the Center for Health Care Services to assist pregnant woman addicted to opiates. The Mommies program provides counseling, medication assistance treatment, prenatal care and BabyU education classes.

Garcia went to every class and never missed her medication, methadone, which helps decrease withdrawal symptoms and reduces the risk of relapse. With the support of Sanchez, the Mommies team and her family, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy in May.

Above and beyond

Garcia says Sanchez does everything she can to make the journey as easy as possible.

“If I had trouble finding transportation, I called Irma and they sent a taxi,” Garcia said. “She texted me to remind me about my appointments. They don’t forget about us. They’re there every step of the way.”

Sanchez, who spent 20 years as a labor and delivery nurse, says Garcia was an example of how successful Mommies pregnancies can be. But success also depends on how well women stick to the program. Because Garcia was committed, her son didn’t suffer withdrawal symptoms after birth, a condition called neonatal abstinence syndrome.

“If a baby has long-term exposure to an opiate during pregnancy, then at birth, suddenly the source of opiates is gone,” said Dr. Luke Newton, a UT Health San Antonio obstetrician and the medical director of the Mommies program. “It’s like stopping cold turkey. They have to be monitored when they have that sharp decrease in opiates.” Our team at University Hospital’s Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit has such extensive experience weening newborns down that the babies stay in the hospital a shorter time than the national average.

Compassionate care

Besides a healthy pregnancy, Garcia says the most important thing the Mommies team gave her was their compassion.

“They don’t give up on you,” she said. “They don’t look at you any different. They always encourage you.”

That’s part of the Mommies team’s philosophy: making patients feel normal, not judged.

“In the past, these patients often would not seek care because of the stigma,” said Sanchez, who noted that in many cases patients are not heroin users, but instead get addicted to painkillers after surgery or a work accident. “They feel judged, so they stay away from clinic appointments. The Mommies program gives them somewhere to go.”

“They are marginalized, and to be treated in a normal way is meaningful to them,” Newton said. “This is a challenging population to treat, and there are some disappointments, but there’s a whole lot of joy when you see those patients succeed.”

For more information about the Mommies program, call 210-863-6039.