Ask any mother what the best day of her life was and she will most like answer, “the day my child was born.” She created and carried that baby for nine months and then brought it into the world to become its own little person. It’s an amazing thing. Now imagine giving birth, crying tears of extreme joy, so excited to meet your little one only to see that he is constantly shaking, won’t stop crying, screams at the slightest bit of light and touch, and can’t sleep. This is the reality of a baby born addicted to drugs.
A baby is born suffering from opiate withdrawal every 25 minutes – National Institute on Drug Abuse
When a baby is born addicted to drugs it is called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome occurs when a mother uses opiate drugs during her pregnancy, such as heroin, Oxycontin, or methadone.
Everything a pregnant woman consumes enters her bloodstream and then passes through the placenta and umbilical cord to the baby in utero. Many people understand this when they think about their diet. However, this nourishment process is just as true for an apple as it is for heroin. After enough use, the baby – just like the mother – will become dependent on the drug. Upon birth, the umbilical cord is cut and the baby is separated from the mother. However, the baby will still be dependent on the drug but is now no longer receiving it from the mother. So the baby will experience withdrawal symptoms just like an addict who stops using.
- Blotchy/mottled skin
- Excessive crying
- Issues sleeping
- Extreme sensitivity to light and touch
- Eating issues
- Rapid breathing
Neonatal abstinence syndrome symptoms will depend on how long the mother was using the drug and how much she would use.
How to Treat Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome:
The pain and discomfort that babies go through when experiencing these withdrawal symptoms is excruciating. Generally, babies born with NAS will need to stay in the hospital. They will need constant supervision and care from NICU doctors and nurses. A baby will typically need to stay in the hospital anywhere from one to eight weeks for treatment and sometimes even longer.
Most babies will need to just be monitored to make sure they’re eating and developing properly. Some will need to be given fluids through an IV because of dehydration if they are vomiting or not eating. In worse cases, babies will need to be given medicines such as methadone or morphine to help treat their symptoms. Babies who need these medicines will be given one that is similar to the drug their mothers used during pregnancy. The baby will be prescribed the medication and then gradually weaned off of it during treatment. While this is a viable treatment, imagine your baby needing a methadone prescription immediately after birth. It’s a horrible way to start life.
NAS babies can also really benefit from attention and comfort from the mother. Skin-to-skin contact is especially beneficial for the baby’s development. The close bonding will help calm a baby suffering from the pain and distress of NAS symptoms. Breastfeeding can also help with treatment. Breast milk contains a substance called immunoglobulin A (IgA) that drastically helps with immune support. It’s actually customized to fit the pathogens in the mother’s body and helps to protect the baby accordingly. While this won’t exactly treat neonatal abstinence syndrome, it can help protect the baby against other illnesses while he or she fights NAS symptoms. The nutrients in breast milk will also help the baby grow and gain weight healthily.
Even if a baby isn’t born addicted to drugs, a mother’s drug use during pregnancy can lead to other health problems, including premature birth and sudden infant death syndrome. Check out this blog article to find out more about the risks of being a pregnant addict.
Pregnancy and childbirth should be one of the happiest times of your life. New parents should be crying tears of joy and bonding comfortably with their new bundle of joy, not watching him shake uncontrollably and struggle to eat. It’s incredibly important that an expecting mother get help for an addiction problem in order to help save her baby’s life. Call us at 855-737-7363 if you or someone you know is struggling with addiction.