Having parents by bedside eases opioid withdrawal symptoms in newborns

Opioid epidemic is wreaking havoc on Americans, and children are no exception. It is estimated that every 19 minutes, an infant is born in the United States with deadly symptoms of opiate withdrawal. Any form of substance abuse during pregnancy, be it cocaine, amphetamine, barbiturates, or opioids like heroin and methadone, endangers the life of both the baby and the mother. A baby exposed to opioids is also at a high risk of birth defects, intrauterine growth, premature delivery and seizures.

These symptoms caused when a baby is exposed to opioids while in the mother’s womb is called neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). Vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, fever and dehydration are also common in babies born with NAS. While most instances of NAS begin as early as 24-48 hours after birth, in some rare instances, symptoms may arise as late as 10 days after birth.

Although treatment of NAS largely depends on the type of substance abused and the overall health of the baby, a lot depends on the way parents interact with the baby immediately after birth. A 2016 study presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) 2016 Meeting suggested that symptoms of NAS can be effectively controlled if parents spend quality time with their newborns.

Skin contact with parents ensures quick recovery

Babies born with opioid addiction are highly fragile and fidgety; therefore, it can be a challenging to address their concerns in the right way. According to the current study, parental presence could also lessen the hospitalization burden for a baby who experiences opioid withdrawal symptoms. It was observed that babies whose parents spent more time at their bedside had less severe withdrawal pangs as compared to those whose parents were absent. The presence of parents, therefore had a therapeutic impact that reduced the severity of withdrawal.

“Encouraging and supporting mothers with substance abuse disorders to be involved in their infant’s care while they are being treated for withdrawal symptoms should be a priority of providers caring for opioid-exposed newborns,” said the lead author, Mary Beth Howard.

It is therefore important to ensure whether parents have the facility to room-in with their newborns. Room-ins are not only favorable for the NAS baby, but also help in reducing the stress faced by the mother. Interestingly, more frequent and prolonged skin-to-skin contact between the parent and the childe increased the chances of recovery. Skin-to-skin bonding served also normalized the postpartum blues faced by the mother.

Tips to deal with NAS baby

By following some handy tips below, one may ensure quicker recovery in newborns with NAS:

  • Swaddling or holding the baby snugly in a blanket for calming them down.
  • Living in rooms with little or no light to prevent overstimulation.
  • Breastfeeding babies more often.
  • Giving extremely low doses of morphine in a systematic manner to reduce the symptoms.
  • Intravenous fluids to prevent extreme dehydration.
  • Monitoring the baby regularly.
  • Opening up about one’s substance abuse problem to the medical authorities ahead of delivery.
  • Providing supportive care to NAS babies.

NAS is preventable provided parents take appropriate measures such as weaning off drugs before pregnancy. There are many state-supported programs, where weaning off is facilitated through opioid replacement drugs like Subutex.

Prevention and cure

The birth of a child is a cause of joy. Before planning a baby, it is essential to discontinue any form of substance abuse. Substance abuse not only creates problems during childbirth, but also leads to poor fetal growth, developmental delays, birth defects and low IQ.

If you or your loved one is addicted to any illegal substances, connect to the California Detox Helpline to know more about various rehab centers in California that have specialized detox programs. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-780-2495 or chat online to know about the best detox centers near you.

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