Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is a group of problems that occur in a newborn who was exposed to addictive illegal or prescription drugs while in the mother’s womb. Babies of mothers who drink during pregnancy may have a similar condition.
Neonatal abstinence syndrome occurs because a pregnant woman takes addictive illicit or prescription drugs such as:
These and other substances pass through the placenta to the baby during pregnancy. The placenta is the organ that connects the baby to its mother in the womb. The baby becomes addicted along with the mother.
At birth, the baby is still dependent on the drug. Because the baby is no longer getting the drug after birth, symptoms of withdrawal may occur.
Alcohol use during pregnancy can also cause problems in the baby. See: Fetal alcohol syndrome
The symptoms of neonatal abstinence syndrome depend on:
Symptoms depend on the drug involved. They can begin within 1 - 3 days after birth, or they may take 5 - 10 days to appear. They may include:
It is important to have your baby checked out by a pediatrician. Many other conditions can produce the same symptoms as neonatal abstinence syndrome.
The doctor will ask questions about the mother's drug use, such as what drugs she took during pregnancy, and when she last took them.
Tests that may be done to diagnose withdrawal in a newborn include:
Treatment depends on:
The health care team will watch the newborn carefully for signs of withdrawal, feeding problems, and weight gain. Babies who vomit or who are very dehydrated may need to get fluids through a vein (intravenously).
Infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome are often fussy and hard to calm. Tips to calm the infant down include:
Some babies with severe symptoms need medicine to treat withdrawal symptoms. Medicines may include:
The doctor may prescribe the infant a drug similar to the one the mother used during pregnancy and slowly decrease the dose over time. This helps wean the baby off the drug and relieve some withdrawal symptoms. Breastfeeding may also be helpful.
Babies with this condition often have poor feeding or slow growth. Such babies may need:
Treatment helps relieve symptoms of withdrawal.
Drug and alcohol use during pregnancy can lead to many health problems in the baby, including:
Neonatal abstinence syndrome can last from 1 week to 6 months.
Make sure your doctor or nurse know about all the drugs you take during pregnancy.
Call your doctor or nurse if your baby has symptoms of neonatal abstinence syndrome.
Discuss all medications, alcohol and tobacco with your health care provider. If you are using drugs, including alcohol or tobacco, ask your health care provider for help with stopping as soon as possible. If you are already pregnant, talk to your health care provider about the best way to stop using and keep yourself and the baby safe.
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