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Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

When you are sharing your body with a fetus, whatever you put into your body is what the baby will absorb as well- including opioid drugs. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a baby is born every 25 minutes suffering from opioid withdrawal. It is important to protect your baby from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome during pregnancy and to make sure you give your baby the proper treatment to avoid the deadly consequences that may come.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome is when a baby suffers a series of conditions after suffering from withdrawal as a result of being exposed of opioids in the womb. Opioids pass through the placenta which grows in the womb and supplies the baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord. Drugs such as codeine, Vicodin, morphine, oxycodone, tramadol, heroin, antidepressants, and benzodiazepines are examples of drugs that a fetus can be addicted to. If the drug is no longer available, the central nervous system of the baby will experience withdrawal just like a fully grown human being with addiction. For nine months, you and your baby are one body. Nothing you put in your body will be able to escape your child and can lead the serious problems in the womb and after your child is born.

The changes your baby can experience with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome can happen three days after birth, right after, or a few weeks after. Symptoms may include tremors, seizures, twitching, tight muscles, excessive crying, fever, blotchy skin, trouble sleeping, diarrhea, throwing up, stuffy nose, and sneezing. This can cause your child to have a premature birth, slow growth, and birth defects. Your child having Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome can depend on which drugs were used, how much drugs, how long you have been taking them, and if the baby was born 37 weeks early. You should have a feeling if your baby has Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome early such as if your baby weighs less than five pounds, eight ounces, the baby’s skin and eyes are yellow from not having a fully functional liver, if the baby has to stay in the NICU, or needs to be under medication.

A doctor can determine whether or not your baby has Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome by using a scoring system to give points on the severity of each symptom your baby is exhibiting to determine the right course of treatment. There is also a meconium test for the baby’s first bowel movement as well as a urine test that the doctor can administer. A small piece of the umbilical cord could also be used for drug testing. You should make sure that if you are currently using opioids but want to quit, do not quit cold turkey as it can lead to death for the baby if they suffer withdrawal symptoms. Make sure to speak to a doctor to give involved in a treatment program. You may need to be on a medically-assisted treatment program where you can be on medications like methadone and buprenorphine during pregnancy to help with withdrawal.

It is possible that you could be taking pain medications as a result of your pregnancy or for any other condition that you may have. Before agreeing to take any medications, check with your doctor to see if any of the medications prescribed can lead to Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome so that you can stop certain medication or change to safer ones. If you are abusing opioid pills such as taking more than prescribed or stealing medications from other people, you should be on birth control so that you can take care of your addiction before pregnancy. Birth control can come in the form of IUDs, implants, pills, or condoms.

If your baby does have Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, make sure that your baby is under medication to treat or manage their symptoms such as morphine, methadone, or buprenorphine. The goal is to prescribe your baby a medication that is similar to the one the mother used while pregnant and then slowly wean off the doses over time. The fluids would be administered through an IV to prevent dehydration, diarrhea, or throwing up. If your baby has a diaper rash or other areas of a skin breakdown, give your baby a special ointment or cream. Your baby may also have to drink a higher calorie formula if they have trouble being fed or are growing too slowly. With five to thirty days, your baby should feel better.

If your baby is being really fussy during treatment, wrap your baby up in a warm blanket to better comfort him or her. You could also press your baby onto your bare chest with him or her wearing nothing but a diaper. Make sure that the room is quiet and dim to avoid any distractions or loud noises. Continue to breastfeed your baby. It is important to remember that if you are thinking of having a child, you need to put the child’s needs before your own. This means that if you are suffering from addiction, go into treatment now instead of while you are pregnant. If you are pregnant and are abusing opioids, speak to your doctor about weaning off of them to avoid your child having any health problems that can affect them as they grow up. Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome is absolutely preventable so think of the health of your baby as well as yourself.

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