Neonatal drug withdrawal occurs when a baby who has been exposed to drugs in the uterus develops withdrawal symptoms. This occurs because the baby is no longer exposed to the drug the mother was taking. This condition can be caused by medications, alcohol, and illegal drugs. It can take weeks to months for a baby to fully withdraw from a drug. Without treatment, this can be a life-threatening condition. If you used drugs during your pregnancy, tell your doctor right away. Your baby can be tested and treated after delivery.
Blood Traveling Through Mother's Placenta to Baby
Drugs and alcohol travel through this path from mother to baby.
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This condition is caused when a woman uses drugs and/or alcohol while pregnant. Drugs that cause this condition include: HeroinMethadoneAmphetaminesCocaineAlcoholOpioidsBenzodiazepinesBarbituratesAntidepressants
Factors that may increase your baby's risk of having neonatal drug withdrawal include: Drug
abuse while pregnant
Drug use or dependency
Depending on the type and amount of drug exposure, symptoms can develop within hours to days after birth.
Neonatal drug withdrawal may cause: IrritabilityPoor feedingDifficulty suckingDiarrheaVomitingHigh-pitched cryCrying a lotSweatingFast breathingShakingDifficulty sleepingYawningSneezingDifficulty breathing through the noseIncreased muscle toneFeverSeizures
The doctor will examine your baby based on their symptoms and your medical and drug history. To diagnose your baby correctly, the doctor needs to know what drug you took during pregnancy, how much was taken, and how often. Your baby will have a physical exam.
Your baby's bodily fluids, tissues, and waste products will be tested. This can be done with: Urine testsBlood testsHair testsStool tests
Your baby's bodily structures may need to be viewed. This can be done with x-rays.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for your baby. Treatment options include the following:
Your baby may need to stay in the hospital to be closely monitored. Your baby may be watched for: Signs of seizuresDifficulty breathingOther serious withdrawal symptoms
Your baby may be given medications to help during withdrawal. Medications will differ based on the drug from which your baby is withdrawing.
Your baby may need IV fluids, oxygen, high-calorie formula, tube-feeding, or other support.
To help reduce your baby‘s chances of getting neonatal drug withdrawal: Stop taking drugs before becoming pregnant or as soon as you learn you are pregnant.After you become pregnant, talk to your doctor about any drugs you have taken. Get regular prenatal care.Get treatment for drug abuse problems before becoming pregnant.
Center for Substance Abuse Treatment.
Improving treatment for drug-exposed infants. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US). 1993;Report No:(SMA)93-2011.
Davidson HA. Neonatal abstinence syndrome: an overview. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/nursing/products/nursing-reference-center. Updated April 24, 2015. Accessed September 15, 2015.
Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). Boston Children's Hospital website Available at: http://www.childrenshospital.org/health-topics/conditions/neonatal-abstinence-syndrome-nas. Accessed September 15, 2015.
Neonatal opioid withdrawal. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 8, 2015. Accessed September 15, 2015.
Last reviewed September 2015 by Kari Kassir, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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