Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

neonatal abstinence syndrome

If you live with chronic pain, anxiety, depression or insomnia, your doctor may write you a prescription for a specific medication to help you find relief. While these drugs can improve your quality of life in the short term, they can also be habit-forming and cause uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit taking them. Women who are pregnant or hoping to be should talk to their health providers about drug-free ways to manage these conditions, because many prescription medications can be dangerous for a growing baby.

Understanding Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

Neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS, is a form of withdrawal newborn babies can experience if their mothers take drugs such as opioids, benzodiazepines or antidepressants while pregnant. Anything a pregnant person consumes – such as nutrients from food – passes through the placenta. Prescription medications that travel through the placenta to a fetus can cause severe harm.

A baby born with neonatal abstinence syndrome may exhibit symptoms like these:

  • Tremors, seizures, overactive reflexes and tight muscle tone
  • Fussiness and being hard to soothe
  • Poor feeding and slow weight gain
  • Respiratory problems
  • Fever, sweating or blotchy skin
  • Trouble sleeping and excessive yawning
  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Stuffy nose or sneezing

Infants with NAS typically need treatment in the newborn intensive care unit, where doctors and nurses can monitor their condition, keep them hydrated, feed them high-calorie baby formula and provide medication as necessary to ease their withdrawal symptoms. Your family can go home from the hospital when your baby is sleeping well, gaining weight and is no longer showing severe signs of neonatal abstinence syndrome.

Other Health Problems Caused by NAS

In addition to having withdrawal signs, babies with NAS are at increased risk of:

  • Low birth weight, defined as being less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces
  • Jaundice, a condition caused by an underdeveloped or damaged liver that causes a baby’s eyes and skin to have a yellowish color
  • Seizures
  • Sudden infant death syndrome, or the unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year old

Neonatal abstinence syndrome may also put your child at a higher risk of problems later in life, including developmental delays, behavioral and learning disorders, disabilities and frequent illness.

Prepare for a Healthy Pregnancy and Delivery

If you are pregnant and routinely use opioids, benzodiazepines or antidepressants, talk to a health care professional before you stop taking your medications. Quitting these medications cold turkey can cause dangerous side effects that could put your health at risk. Your doctor may suggest gradually tapering off to avoid the hazards associated with prescription drug withdrawal.

Professional women’s-only addiction treatment can also help you recover and get healthy for yourself and your loved ones. At Rising Roads Recovery, we use a combination of proven treatments such as therapy, community and life skills to teach women how to overcome addiction and manage co-occurring disorders. To learn more about what we offer, reach out to us today.

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