Change Indicator

Babies born substance-exposed in Maine

Babies born substance-exposed

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Why This Indicator Matters

Parental substance use disorder is often a causative factor in families being involved in the child protective system. The child's basic needs for food and safety may not be met in households where substance abuse disorder is present. There may be complications at birth and later in life for the child born substance-exposed. For the newborn baby, treatment for Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, if necessary, can be inpatient or outpatient and can involve either pharmacologic or non-pharmacologic treatments. 

The data for babies born substance-exposed shows that for over half the babies, (57%) Cannabis is the primary substance. For another 21% of babies born substance-exposed in Maine, prescribed Methadone or Buprenorphine is the primary substance. These two drugs are prescribed to treat  substance use disorder. For eleven babies, the primary substance was alcohol which is known to have major life-long harmful effects when exposed in utero. The remaining 21% were other prescribed and illegal schedule I and II drugs including: meth, cocaine, oxycontin, amphetamines, barbiturates, peyote and other substances.

What the data shows
The number of babies born substance-exposed peaked in 2016. For 2023, there were 635 babies born substance-exposed. This is the lowest number since tracking began in 2012.  In 2023, statewide, the percent of babies born substance exposed/affected was 5.5%.

In the latest year, 2023, the percent of babies born substance-exposed was 10% or higher in 3 of Maine's 16 counties: Aroostook, 14%, Androscoggin, 11%, and Oxford, 11.%.  By contrast, in 2023, Cumberland, Hancock and York all had rates at or below 4%. Washington County experienced the greatest improvement, as in 2021 there were 39 babies born drug exposed/affected and in 2022 and again in 2023, there were only 15 reports of babies born substance exposed/affected.

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Definition and Source



This indicator reflects the number of infants born in Maine where a healthcare provider reported to the Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) that there was reasonable cause to suspect the baby may be exposed to certain substances, possibly demonstrating withdrawal symptoms resulting from prenatal substance exposure (illicit or prescribed), or have fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. This measure potentially excludes instances where the infant was exposed to substances and did not show withdrawal symptoms after birth, instances where the birth of an infant affected by substances was not reported to OCFS, and any other instances in which there were discrepancies between reporters when interpreting the law. The numerator is the number of babies reported to the Maine Office for Children and Family Services as born substance-exposed and the denominator is the number of births in a calendar year in Maine. 

Data Source

Maine Office of Child and Family Services, (OCFS) of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for the number of babies born substance-exposed in a year. The State of Maine Office of Vital Statistics for the number of births in the same calendar year. 


Please Note:  Referrals to Maine Office of Children and Family Services for babies born substance-exposed vary by Reporting Hospitals.

Last Updated

January 2024