Neonatal drug withdrawal occurs when a baby who has been exposed to drugs in the womb develops withdrawal symptoms. This occurs because the baby is no longer exposed to the drug the mother was taking. This condition can be caused by medicines, alcohol, and illegal drugs. It can take weeks to months for a baby to fully withdraw from a drug. Without treatment, this can be a life-threatening condition. If you used drugs during your pregnancy, tell your doctor right away. Your baby can be tested and treated after delivery.
This condition is caused when a woman uses drugs and/or alcohol while pregnant. Drugs that cause this condition include:
These factors increase your baby’s chances of developing this condition. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:
Depending on the type and amount of drug exposure, symptoms can develop within hours to days after birth.
- Poor feeding
- Difficulty sucking
- High-pitched cry
- Crying a lot
- Fast breathing
- Difficulty sleeping
- Stuffy nose (hard to breath through the nose)
- Increased muscle tone
The doctor will examine your baby based on her symptoms and your medical and drug history. To diagnose your baby correctly, the doctor needs to know what drug you took during pregnancy, how much was taken, and how often. Your baby will have a physical exam. Tests may include urine tests, hair or stool tests, blood tests, and x-rays.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for your baby. Treatment options include the following:
Your baby may need to stay in the hospital to be closely monitored. Your baby may be watched for:
- Signs of seizures
- Difficulty breathing
- Other serious withdrawal symptoms
Your baby may be given medicines to help during withdrawal. Medicines will differ based on the drug from which your baby is withdrawing.
Your baby may need IV fluids, oxygen, high-calorie formula, tube-feeding, or other support.
Follow your doctor's instructions.
To help reduce your baby‘s chances of getting this condition, take the following steps:
- Stop taking drugs before becoming pregnant or as soon as you learn you are pregnant.
- After you become pregnant, talk to your doctor about any drugs you have taken. Get regular prenatal care.
- Get treatment for drug abuse problems before becoming pregnant.
- Reviewer: Kari Kassir, MD
- Review Date: 09/2013 -
- Update Date: 09/30/2013 -