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What Happens When a Baby is Born Addicted to Drugs? | Primary Purpose Behavioral Health

We all know that anything a mother puts into her body during pregnancy will eventually make its way to the child in utereo. But knowing this truth is very different from knowing exactly what happens to babies born addicted to drugs. 



Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome & Drug Use While Pregnant

Stanford Medicine and Childrens Health says that the consequences of drug use during pregnancy include neonatal abstinence syndrome. “Neonatal abstinence syndrome is what happens when babies are exposed to drugs in the womb before birth. Babies can then go through drug withdrawal after birth. The syndrome most often applies to opioid medicines.” Any one of these substances can cause NAS:

  • Opioids like heroin, codeine and oxycodone

  • Stimulants such as amphetamines or cocaine. 

  • Antidepressant medicines such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

  • Depressants such as barbiturates, or alcohol, or marijuana

  • Nicotine from cigarette smoking


Symptoms of Neonatal abstinence syndrome can manifest immediately, or weeks after birth, and include;

  • Poor growth in the uterus

  • Being born premature

  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice)

  • Birth defects

  • ​​Trembling

  • Too much crying or high-pitched crying

  • Sleep problems

  • Tight muscle tone

  • Overactive reflexes

  • Seizures

  • Yawning, stuffy nose, and sneezing

  • Poor feeding and sucking

  • Vomiting or diarrhea

  • Sweating

  • Fever or unstable temperature

  • Abnormal behavior, language and cognition


Imagine all the pain of withdrawal, in your first few weeks or months of life. The discomfort of the child can draw a wedge between the infant and the parents, who can’t seem to get the baby quiet and comfortable, even if they are attentive to the babies needs.


Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder & Alcohol Use While Pregnant

Drinking during pregnancy can result in all the frightening symptoms above, but takes it one step farther. Fetal alcohol syndrome, or FAS, is the most severe form of FASD and causes an aray of permanent issues including;

  • Small head size

  • Abnormal facial features

  • Problems with vision or hearing

  • Low body weight

  • Shorter-than-average height

  • Poor coordination

  • Problems with sleep and sucking as a baby

  • Heart, kidney, or bone problems


Addiction Help for Pregnant Women

Did you know that there is help for pregnant women struggling from addiction? Most organizations set up for pregnant addicts have all-female facilities with all the medical support needed to get through a healthy pregnancy. Taking advantage of these programs often comes with continued support after birth. For more information on getting help for a pregnant addict in your life, reach out to Primary Purpose Behavioral Health today.



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