Is Your Baby at Risk for Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome?

As the opioid epidemic rises in our society, we are meeting its youngest victims: babies born with NAS.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS, is a drug withdrawal syndrome that affects newborns.  It happens when a baby is exposed to drugs while in the womb.  When a pregnant woman takes drugs, the substance passes through her bloodstream, through the placenta, and directly to the fetus.  Once the baby is born, he or she will experience severe drug withdrawal and in many cases, the pain that is associated with it.

You may be wondering; “Why should I care about NAS?” or “What drugs can cause NAS?”  Perhaps you are here because you believe your baby may be at risk.  Whether you have a history of drug use or have been prescribed pain medication by your doctor, it is important to know the risks that drugs can pose for your baby.

NAS is most often caused by opioid use during pregnancy.  Opioids are painkillers commonly used to relieve pain.  They come in the form of morphine, oxycodone, and codeine.  Opioid drugs can range from legal, regulated prescriptions such as Vicodin all the way to illicit street drugs like Heroin.  When an expectant mother takes these kinds of drugs, she puts her baby at risk for many health problems including low birth weight, respiratory problems, birth defects, and seizures.  Examples of substances that can cause NAS are listed below.

Prescription Drugs that Can Cause Withdrawal Symptoms in Babies Include (but are not limited to):

  • Vicodin
  • Kadian
  • Avinza
  • OxyContin
  • Percocet
  • Sleeping pills (Xanax)
  • Antidepressants

Recreational Substances that Can Cause Withdrawal Symptoms in Babies Include (but are not limited to):

  • Amphetamines (Cocaine)
  • Alcohol
  • Heroin
  • Methadone

There has been a five-fold increase in opioid use among pregnant women since the year 2000.  Many women are prescribed pain relievers during pregnancies.  Others take drugs before knowing they are pregnant.  Unfortunately, this drug use has led to the birth of many NAS babies.  From 2000 to 2012, an estimated 21,732 infants were born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.  This means that approximately every 25 minutes, one baby suffering from opioid withdrawal was born to this world.

Babies born with NAS are difficult to comfort.  They cry excessively, have trouble eating and sleeping, and are often feverish or nauseous for days after birth.  For these reasons, NAS babies are required to stay in the hospital much longer than the average newborn.  Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome typically keeps babies in the hospital for 17 days, compared to the average two days for healthy newborns.  This extended hospital stay can become costly for many families.  When a child is born with NAS, it is reported to the Department of Children and Families. As a result, many NAS babies are placed in the DCF foster care system.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome can happen to any baby that is exposed to drugs, from mothers of all walks of life.  Even if you take a legal opioid exactly as your provider tells you to do, there is still a risk for NAS in your baby.  Do not blame yourself.  As you continue your pregnancy, know that there is still an opportunity to make your situation a positive one.  There are resources to make a better life for you and your baby.

If you are pregnant and have used any of the drugs that can cause NAS, talk to your health care provider right away.  Keep your doctor informed about any substances or prescription medications that you take.  If you are experiencing any health problems, make sure your doctor knows that you are pregnant, to ensure each prescription issued is safe for your baby.  If you are pregnant and addicted to drugs, talk to your doctor about a regulated drug treatment plan.  Do not be afraid to consult your doctor.  He or she is there to help you and your baby, without judgment. Remember, all doctors have a patient confidentiality policy.  What you tell your doctor is classified information and will be kept safe.

If you do not have a health care provider at this time, do not worry.  There are drop-in health clinics and walk-in centers available to care for you and your baby.  If you believe your baby is at risk for NAS and are not able to give your child the life or healthcare that he or she needs, you may consider making an adoption plan.  Choosing adoption will allow you to give your baby the stable environment that he or she deserves to heal and grow.  Adoptions With Love can help you find a reputable doctor who understands both your emotional and physical needs.  We will also cover any uninsured medical expenses once you complete the adoption.

Our mission at Adoptions With Love is to find the best home for each and every child.  If you are at all concerned for your baby or your baby’s future, adoption may prove to be the best choice for you.  Your baby can go from the hospital to a waiting adoptive family and avoid foster care.  We can help you find a loving, stable adoptive family that is  ready to raise your child.  With a private, open adoption, you will always know that your child is thriving and that you made the best decision for your child at this moment in time.

If you have any questions regarding Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or if you or someone you know is pregnant and suffering from opioid addiction, please do not hesitate to call us confidentially at 1-800-722-7731 or text us at 1-617-777-0072.  Adoptions With Love is available 24/7 to listen, discuss your options, and help you make a positive plan for you and your baby.


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