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What is neonatal abstinence syndrome?

Neonatal abstinence syndrome is a complex condition that develops in newborns shortly after birth. It is most likely to develop if the mother, during the maternal period took some medications or substances that caused addiction to the kid. Since the mother and foetus share most things, these substances can be passed from the mother to the kid via the placenta.

What causes neonatal abstinence syndrome /NAS?

This syndrome is also known as neonatal withdrawal syndrome as the infant suffers symptoms like those of a substance addict when they withdraw from addictive substances. The most common substances and drugs that cause NAS are cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, diazepam, barbiturates and marijuana which the mother took while pregnant. These drugs are able to pass the blood-placenta barrier and hence, the baby becomes addicted as does the mother.

Symptoms of NAS

Symptoms of NAS develop shortly after birth, since the child no longer receives doses of the addictive substances. The baby develops withdrawal symptoms just like any other addict who is quitting drugs. The most common neonatal withdrawal syndrome symptoms are fever, excessive suckling, rapid breathing, high-pitched crying, diarrhoea, poor sleeping patterns, irritability, poor appetite, seizures among others. The manifestation period of the symptoms depends on the amount of addictive substance the mother took while pregnant. Usually, the symptoms show a week or two after birth.

Diagnosis of NAS

When one suspects that a child has NAS, it is wise to see the doctor as soon as possible as serious cases can be fatal. The doctor can perform tests to determine whether the symptoms are related to substance withdrawal syndrome. The common test include bowel toxicology to determine excreted products of the drugs, urinalysis to show any indication of filtered waste drugs products and neonatal withdrawal syndrome scoring system. The latter assigns points according to the severity of symptoms, so as to come up with a treatment regime.

Prevention and treatment options

Many medications have been shown to produce neonatal abstinence syndrome soon after the birth of a child. This is why expectant mothers are restricted from taking any OTC or self-prescribed drugs. Pregnant mothers should also refrain from taking addictive substances like alcohol, tobacco or other hard drugs. Treatment options for NAS Treatment entirely depends on the type of substance that the child was hooked to. The most common withdrawal substances include alcohol and opiates where benzodiazepines and methadone are prescribed respectively. These target the so-called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, hence, reducing the symptoms of NAS.

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