The opioid addiction epidemic is heart breaking but what more heart-breaking is the number of babies born by drug addicted mothers. It is saddening to see that every 19 minutes there is an opioid addicted baby born in America. While many of the opioid addicted adults willingly avoid or fear giving up the drugs because of the intense withdrawal effects new born babies do not have a choice. They must endure the painful and sometimes life threatening opioid withdrawal symptoms. The number of women in the child bearing age using or addicted to opioids has risen constantly throughout the world. 13% of pregnant women in America are using illicit substances during pregnancy and of that number 19% is addicted to opioids.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome – NAS

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome abbreviated as (NAS) refers to the group of problems that a new born baby experiences when they are withdrawing from narcotics exposure. Every drug a pregnant woman takes it passes the mother’s blood stream and reaches the fetus through the placenta. Illicit substance that cause the mother to get addicted also get the fetus addicted. The baby’s dependence continues after birth but since they do not receive the drug, their central nervous system becomes overstimulated and causes the symptoms of withdrawal. The baby starts experiencing withdrawal symptoms 24 to 48 hours after birth or sometimes 5 to 10 days after they were born.

Potential Problem of Opiate Use During Pregnancy

A study shows that 75% of all addicted expectant mothers never seek prenatal care. Even though infants whose mothers received prenatal care were found to have higher birth weights and were overall healthier most mothers do not consider the prenatal care. This is the beginning of the problem since the do not take the necessary steps to ensure a healthy pregnancy. Below are some symptoms of Opioid induced NAS;

  • Tremors
  • Convulsions
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Mottling

The severity of the symptoms will vary depending of the substance the mother used, when she last used it and if the baby is premature of full term. The symptoms in most cases last up to five days. If the symptoms persist for longer the child requires pharmacological intervention using morphine or methadone. Pharmacological intervention is requires for 50% to 70% of all NAS infants.

Long Term Impact of NAS

Not a lot of information is known about the long term effects of NAS since it is really hard to isolate the independent factors such as substance exposure and environmental influences.

Based on several reports these are the issues related to NAS;

  • Increased motor rigidity
  • Deregulated motor patterns
  • Decreased overall activity
  • Less social responsiveness and poorer social engagement
  • Shorter concentration span

Treatment for the withdrawal system differs from one child to the other depending on the drug involved, the health of the infant and if the baby was born premature or full term. A team of health care professionals should watch the baby. If a baby is too dehydrated they get fluids through a vein.

Babies with NAS are very irritable and comforting them can be very a difficult. Neonatal abstinence syndrome is a preventable problem simply by the mother quitting drug abuse while pregnant or as soon as they realize they are pregnant. Expectant mothers should understand that consuming drugs can lead to a miscarriage, low birth weight, intellectual disabilities and even death.