As you transition from one trimester to the other, your appetite will go through many changes. Where once you craved a food item, you may not like it now. To top it off, you may also experience pain, that can affect your food habits. While you can choose natural methods to deal with these appetite fluctuations and curb pain, some new mothers often fall into the opioid trap and end up displaying neonatal abstinence syndrome symptoms.
Yes, you read that right.
As your body goes through these changes, you may seek relief from pain using opioids. While they may be an effective drug to rid you of headaches and body pain, their misuse can cause complications during pregnancy, such as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).
What Is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome?
According to MedlinePlus, NAS is a series of conditions that are caused when a baby withdraws from certain drugs in the womb, before the birth. The primary cause of NAS are opioids that an expecting mother may take to curb pains during pregnancy.
Unfortunately, in many cases NAS is also a result of an expecting mother taking sleeping pills like barbiturates or benzodiazepines, or antidepressants.
What happens when you take opioids during pregnancy?
Essentially, when you take these drugs during pregnancy, they pass through your placenta and cause serious, potentially fatal, problems for your baby. Remember, the placenta grows in the uterus (womb) and is responsible to supply food and oxygen to your baby through the umbilical cord.
Due to this, your unborn baby becomes dependent on the drugs, which then leads to withdrawal symptoms once they are born. This is where NAS strikes.
It’s not always just pain killers that you take on your own. If you’ve had a surgery and the doctor has prescribed medications that can also lead to NAS. This condition is nowadays also called neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome or NOWS.
So if you’re pregnant, ensure that you speak to your doctor about medication. And if you haven’t yet spoken about it to anybody, you may want to be extra vigilant and look out for signs of NAS. This, especially if you are taking any medications during pregnancy.
To learn more about neonatal abstinence syndrome symptoms and how best to treat it, read on.
Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Symptoms: All You Need To Know
Babies who have NAS may also have an increased risk of experiencing various health problems including low birth weight, and premature birth. | Image source: iStock
The neonatal abstinence syndrome symptoms are some that your family members or partner can physically see right away. These can include a rash or cough.
However, signs of NAS may be different for every baby. Some may show the sings within 72 hours of birth. While others may show them right after birth. In some cases, the signs don’t show up till weeks from birth and can last upto six months.
Babies who have NAS may also have an increased risk of experiencing various health problems including low birth weight, premature birth, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). They may also have problems with development and behaviour as they grow up.
In fact, studies have shown that babies with NAS were more likely to have developmental delays, speech and language impairments and motor issues.
They are also said to be at higher risk of long-term hearing and vision problems as well as a disrupted attachment from their mothers.
So how do you spot NAS in babies?
For babies who frequently vomit or are very dehydrated, they may be provided with fluids through an IV | Image source: iStock
If you spot the following signs in your baby, its advised to call your doctor immediately:
These symptoms can depend upon:
- The type of drug used by the mother
- How your body breaks down and clears the drug which may be influenced by genetic factors
- How much of the drug was taken
- For how long the mother used the drug
- Whether the baby was born full-term or premature
Doctors might also give your baby medicine if their symptoms appear to be severe. | Image source: iStock
Treatment For Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)
Treatment for NAS depends on your baby’s overall health and abstinence scores. This involves assigning points based on the newborn’s symptoms. It may also depend on the drug that was taken by the mother and if her baby was born full-term or premature.
- For treatment, a healthcare team will ideally look after your baby and examine him/her carefully for a week after birth. This will also depend on the health status of the newborn. Here, they will check for any signs of withdrawal, feeding problems and weight gain.
- For babies who frequently vomit or are very dehydrated, they may be provided with fluids through an IV.
- Doctors might also give your baby medicine if their symptoms appear to be severe.
- Medicines such as methadone or morphine can treat their withdrawal symptoms as well as help the newborn eat, sleep and relax like normal. (This will only happen on the recommendation of your doctor. Please do not purchase these on your own without a prescription.) This is in order to prescribe a drug that is similar to what their mother used during pregnancy then slowly decrease its dose over time to relieve them of withdrawal.
This treatment may take longer, keeping your baby at the hospital for weeks or even months.
You may find your baby fussy and irritated during this time which is normal behaviour. To calm them down, MedlinePlus suggests using any of these tips:
- Gently rocking your child
- Reducing as much noise and lights
- Skin to skin contact with the mother
- Bundling them up in a blanket
With that said, it’s crucial for you to be vigilant during pregnancy so as to avoid any future complications to your baby, post birth.
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