What Is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome?

What Is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome?Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is a condition in which a baby has withdrawal symptoms after being exposed to certain substances, such as drugs or alcohol. Neonatal abstinence syndrome can develop if a pregnant woman uses any substance during her pregnancy, such as prescription or over-the-counter medications, illicit drugs and alcohol. If a fetus is exposed to chemical substances, the unborn child can easily develop a chemical dependency. The unborn child is exposed to each and every thing that the mother ingests, and a fetus is so tiny that even small uses of medication can have a strong effect on the unborn child’s development.

The substances most likely to cause neonatal abstinence syndrome include the following:

  • Opioids or painkillers, such as Vicodin, OxyContin, morphine and fentanyl
  • Benzodiazepines, sleep aids or anxiety medications, including Xanax, Valium, Ambien and clonazepam
  • Illicit drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, methadone and amphetamines

Neonatal abstinence syndrome occurs when the baby is born and separated from his or her mother. Withdrawal sets in because the baby is no longer exposed to the substances he or she has become dependent on or physically addicted to.

Symptoms of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

Symptoms of neonatal abstinence syndrome vary depending on the substance used, the duration of use and whether the baby is delivered prematurely or full-term. In a full-term baby, withdrawal symptoms may include the following:

  • Tremors and seizures
  • Irritability
  • Excessive crying and high-pitched crying
  • Hyperactive reflexes
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Feeding complications
  • Dehydration
  • Fever
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

In pre-mature deliveries, symptoms of withdrawal more commonly consist of the following:

  • Tremors
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Poor feeding
  • Fever and unstable vitals
  • High-pitched crying

Symptoms of neonatal abstinence syndrome may appear within 24 hours of birth and last up to 10 days.

Risks of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

Neonatal abstinence syndrome is 100 percent preventable. If the risk of withdrawal in an infant is not heartbreaking enough, babies who suffer from neonatal abstinence syndrome are at high risk for many other complications and dangers. If a mother puts her baby at risk for neonatal abstinence syndrome, she is also putting her child at risk for the following:

  • Premature birth and stillbirth
  • Birth defects
  • Long-term withdrawal symptoms for up to six months after birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Poor intrauterine growth
  • Intracranial bleeding (bleeding in the brain)
  • Poor fetal growth, developmental delay and learning disabilities
  • Heart defects
  • Mental retardation
  • Deformities of the head and face

A mother’s decision to keep using substances, both illicit and legal, during her pregnancy can cause a baby immense health problems and overall decrease a child’s wellness and quality of life for years to come. The effects of using drugs and alcohol while pregnant can cause permanent damage to a child. Putting a child at risk for neonatal abstinence syndrome is comparable to child abuse.

Prevent Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome and Get Drug Abuse or Addiction Help Today

If you are pregnant and want to prevent or reduce the risk for neonatal abstinence syndrome, call our toll-free number for help. Putting an end to drug abuse or addiction at any time before, during or after the pregnancy can greatly improve the health of both the child and mother. Our recovery professionals are available 24 hours a day to help you find the treatment and recovery services that will work for you and your family. Whether you have questions, concerns or information needs, a recovery professional is happy to help. When you’re ready, we can help find and connect you to the treatment services that are right for you. Drug use during pregnancy hurts a baby before the baby takes his or her first breath. If you need drug abuse or addiction help, please take action now.