Drug Addicted Mothers and their Babies: Part One

What Happens to Babies Born Addicted?

“Tremors” is what the medical profession calls them, but it doesn’t seem to accurately describe the incessant whole body shaking an infant endures for hours as he withdraws from the drugs his mother took while she was pregnant. 

Nurses explain that the high-pitched screaming is very different from most newborns, and indicates the excruciating pain the drug addicted babies are going through. This is called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, and is becoming more prevalent across America as the drug abuse epidemic grows. The number of mothers addicted to opiate or narcotic drugs such as heroin, codeine, oxycodone (OxyContin), methadone or buprenorphine is on the rise, resulting in a population of victims “hooked” before they’re even born. While these infants are being weaned from their mothers’ drug of choice, they can suffer any of the following symptoms:

excessive crying (which can lead to breathing problems), the inability to be consoled, extreme abdominal pain, explosive diarrhea, fever, hyperactive reflexes, irritability, sweating, vomiting, problems sucking and poor feeding, tensed muscles, problems sleeping, and tremors. 

Symptoms often begin within 1 – 3 days after birth, but can take up to a week to appear. The number and severity of symptoms depends on:
•    The type of drug the mother was using
•    How the body breaks down the specific drug
•    How much of the drug she was taking and how soon before birth
•    How long the mother had been using the drug

How do you treat babies born with drug addiction?

First of all, the infant has to go through a series of tests/exams. Then treatment will be determined by: the drug involved, the baby’s overall health, and whether the baby was born full-term or premature.

Babies who have feeding problems, vomit, or who are very dehydrated may need IV fluids. Often newborns with  neonatal abstinence syndrome are highly irritable and difficult to console. Nurses try to rock the child, reduce the exposure to noise and dim the lights, or swaddle the infant in a blanket to try and help them feel secure. Some babies with severe symptoms require medication such as methadone and morphine to treat withdrawal symptoms and must be gradually weaned off of the drug. Watching a newborn go through withdrawal and helping them through it is difficult for anyone to experience. Babies with this syndrome need much longer stays in the hospital than healthy babies, and symptoms can last from one week up to six months. It’s different from child to child. 

What are the possible outcomes for addicted babies?

The sad reality: more than 130,000 children were born hooked on drugs in the U.S. in the past 10 years. Babies who are born to mothers addicted to drugs or alcohol are faced with the potential for a multitude of health problems and adverse long term effects. These include, but are not limited to:
•    premature birth
•    low birth weight
•    birth defects
•    small head circumference
•    sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
•    developmental and behavioral problems
When a child is a victim of her mother’s drug or alcohol abuse, and is unable to remain in the care of her mother, alternative plans must be made to determine where the baby will go after her hospital stay. If she has medical challenges, it can be hard to place her in a home. Other family members may not be willing or able to take on the responsibility. Couples wishing to adopt prefer healthy babies. Foster families may be unable to take on a child with extra needs, and so these babies are the unwanted ones: the ones who end up in orphanages, left for extended periods of time in hospitals, or sent to temporary home situations. While the baby may receive the basic requirements, the crucial one-to-one bonding a child needs goes missing. This can result in social and emotional problems, anxiety, difficulty trusting, others, or resisting other healthy forms of physical contact. They are also predisposed to alcohol or drug abuse in the future.

What to do to help the problem?

Of course, the awareness of the growing problem is always a start. However, pregnant women who are “using” or drinking need to be upfront with their health care provider and discuss all medications they are taking, alcohol they are consuming, illegal drugs or tobacco they are using as well. The medical professional can answer questions and refer mothers to those who know how to help them stop drug or alcohol abuse, especially during pregnancy in order to give their babies the best chance for a healthy start to life.

At Moffitt Oaks we have focused our efforts to provide a private rehab center that is proud of its reputation for providing confidential and outstanding drug and alcohol addiction treatment, addressing all aspects of recovery, whether physical, psychological, emotional, or spiritual. Experience has taught us that only through a dedicated and correctly integrated process, can the road to recovery be truly successful.

If you are a pregnant mother or you know a pregnant mother searching for freedom from addiction or simply need guidance in discovering the benefits and importance of healthy living, now is the time to start your path towards healing at Moffitt Wellness Retreat. 

Connect with us for a complimentary and confidential consultation to begin your wellness journey. However, if you need support right now please do not hesitate to call us 1.713.907.5632