Neonatal Drug Withdrawal

(Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome)


Neonatal drug withdrawal occurs when a baby who has been exposed to drugs in the uterus 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 medications, 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.
Blood Traveling Through Mother's Placenta to Baby
baby fetus placenta
Drugs and alcohol travel through this path from mother to baby.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


This condition is caused when a woman uses drugs and/or alcohol while pregnant. Drugs that cause this condition include:
  • Heroin
  • Methadone
  • Amphetamines
  • Cocaine
  • Alcohol
  • Opioids
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Barbiturates
  • Antidepressants

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your baby's risk of having neonatal drug withdrawal include:
  • Drug , medication, or alcohol abuse while pregnant
  • Drug use or dependency


Depending on the type and amount of drug exposure, symptoms can develop within hours to days after birth.Neonatal drug withdrawal may cause:
  • Irritability
  • Poor feeding
  • Difficulty sucking
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • High-pitched cry
  • Crying a lot
  • Sweating
  • Fast breathing
  • Shaking
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Yawning
  • Sneezing
  • Difficulty breathing through the nose
  • Increased muscle tone
  • Fever
  • Seizures

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