Increasing Problem of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome
The opioid epidemic continues to be a serious public health issue, and close to 50,000 people fatally overdosed on various opioids in 2019 alone in the United States. While much attention goes to the individuals with opioid addiction, there are other, tinier victims - infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).
NAS Increasing in the U.S.
A recently published study revealed that the relative risk of opioid disorders in pregnant women rose 131 percent from 2010 to 2017. The rate of NAS diagnosis increased from four infants per 1,000 births to 7.3 infants per 1,000 births during that same period. The instances of NAS among newborns are still on the rise across the U.S., and this is only among reported births. There are likely additional home births among women with opioid disorders that do not get reported.
What is NAS?
NAS refers to a group of health conditions an infant can have when they go into withdrawal from certain substances - most often opioids - after birth. The baby can develop an addiction to opioids in the womb when the mother has an opioid disorder. With the right treatment in the NICU, infants can recover from their initial conditions within a few days or weeks. Treatment can include IV fluids, withdrawal management medication, and high-calorie formula for their diet.
Babies with NAS can be difficult to soothe and particularly fussy. Parents and medical professionals can help by ensuring the baby gets swaddled, skin-to-skin contact, gentleness, and breastfeeding when possible. Other signs include:
- High-pitched crying
- Body twitching, tremors, or seizures
- Tight muscles
- Not gaining weight and poor feeding
- Fast breathing and other respiratory issues
- Sneezing or congestion
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Blotchy skin
- Sweating and fever
Whenever a parent notices the signs of NAS in a newborn, the parent should report it right away to the child’s doctor.
Even after a baby initially recovers, the baby can have long-term developmental and health issues, such as:
- Higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Developmental delays
- Hearing problems
- Vision problems
- Motor issues
- Sleep problems
- Language and speech difficulties
- Ear infections
A child’s doctor should regularly check for developmental milestones and possible issues as the child ages.
Prevention and Treatment of NAS
There are ways that mothers and their medical providers can work to prevent NAS. Pregnant women should ensure they are not prescribed opioids as medication during pregnancy. If a pregnant woman has an opioid disorder, she should tell her doctor right away. Quitting cold turkey can be dangerous and even fatal for the baby, so stopping opioid use should always be done as part of a professional treatment program or medication-assisted treatment overseen by medical professionals.
Doctors should be prepared for possible early delivery with potential complications. They should also be ready to address possible NAS and related complications at birth. The medical team should identify the signs of NAS and respond appropriately to give the child the best prognosis possible.
Contact an Ohio Birth Injury Lawyer You Can Trust
If you have concerns about your newborn’s health due to the treatment you or your child did or did not receive, the Ohio birth injury attorneys at The Eisen Law Firm are ready to help. Call 216-687-0900 or contact us online so we can evaluate your rights for free.