Top Stories

Center helping pregnant women and new moms overcome opioid addiction

PITTSBURGH — Channel 11 has covered the struggle this year, as families try to balance unemployment, their health and their homes.

Doctors in the Pittsburgh area have seen it weigh on their patients as the pandemic continues.

That’s why UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital allowed only Channel 11 Morning News Anchor Katherine Amenta to visit their “Pregnancy Recovery Center” and let women know, they’re here to help.

“That’s a lot to figure out when you’re 18,” said Rachel Radke. “I’m getting ready to start college; I’m addicted to heroin and I am pregnant; okay so it was like major disaster.”

Rachel Radke said at 31 years old, she’s now strong enough to look back and share her battle with addiction and mental health. The Mt. Lebanon mother of three doesn’t shy away from remembering those lonely years in 2008. Rachel was pregnant with her oldest son, Asher and was desperately trying to stay clean.  She went on methadone to help.

“I faced a lot of stigma in the hospital,” said Radke. “Making some little snide comments about the choices I had made.”

For 17 long days, Asher stayed in the hospital for detox.

“It was heartbreaking. I mean it was heartbreaking. It was awful,” said Radke.

Eventually, Asher went home a healthy baby boy and five years later, his brother, Isaac, came along. But Rachel’s ups and downs continued.

“Other times I just gave up because I was exasperated with feeling like crap for a decade and just gave up and self-medicated,” said Radke.

Then, everything changed in 2019. Baby number three was on the way. Rachel had a job, was in school and was staying clean with the help of Suboxone. However, she was scared it wouldn’t last. That’s when her doctor recommended UPMC Magee’s “Pregnancy Recovery Center”.

Tucked away in a peaceful office space, the center’s reach cannot be measured.

Since 2014, their doctors, nurses and social workers have tailored outpatient support for women -- from mental health services - to finding a job - to managing a happy and healthy pregnancy.

“It’s important to kind of normalize the pregnancy,” said OB/GYN Dr. Elizabeth Krans. “And how excited they are to be a mom and how excited they are to have a child.”

Dr. Elizabeth Krans says the key is tearing down the stigma.

“We should have the same response when we learn that someone is on insulin for their diabetes for somebody who is on methadone for their opioid abuse disorder,” said Krans.

And she said the program’s proof is in their newborns.

“It has really changed the entire dynamic,” she said. “We have seen our treatment rates for the baby totally plummet. Less than 5 percent of babies need to receive medical therapy.”

For Rachel, her daily battle, has turned into a routine, monthly check-in at the center. Now she’s using her newfound freedom to help others.

“I know that the PRC, it’s just improved my outcomes tremendously and I know it’s done that for other women,” said Radke. “There’s no reason to be afraid or ashamed or to suffer or be sick when there’s other choices out there.”

To date, the “Pregnancy Recovery Center” has helped more than 700 women and 200 babies. Their services are available to all women - even if they’re not pregnant.

For more information about making an appointment, CLICK HERE.