Prescribed Opioids To Pregnant Women Contributed To The Increased Rate Of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Among Newborn Babies, Study Finds

By Ellainie Calangian, Parent Herald January 14, 11:00 pm

In the U.S., there is about 14 to 22 percent of pregnant women who use opioids during pregnancy. A recent study shows that the use of the prescribed opioids among pregnant women has increased the rate of the neonatal abstinence syndrome.

"The steep increase in the number of opioids prescriptions dispensed in the U.S. has been associated with a parallel rise in their misuse, fatal overdose and heroin use," said Nora Volkow, the director at the National Institutes on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health. "More recently, attention has been focused on the large increase in the number of infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome," she continued.

Science Daily shared that the rate of the number of infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome has augmented to 1.20 to 3.39 per 1000 live births between 2000 and 2009. "High prescribing rates of opioids to women during pregnancy have probably contributed to recent increases in neonatal abstinence syndrome," argues Volkow.

Defining Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), it is a group of problems that arise in a newborn who was subjected to addictive drugs such as opioid while in the mother's womb. The drug's substance passes into the placenta which joins the baby to the mother in the womb. The pregnant woman who takes the drug becomes addicted to it. Likewise, the baby becomes dependent on the drug until after his birth. In this case, the baby will experience withdrawal symptoms.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine stated the symptoms that may occur after 1 to 3 days from the birth of the baby. These include diarrhea, excessive sucking, blotchy skin coloring, high-pitched crying or excessive crying, increased muscle tone, poor feeding, fever, seizures, sneezing, vomiting, trembling, slow weight problem, sleep problems and rapid breathing.

Opioids are prescribed for pregnant women to relieve pain. These relatively include painful conditions such as injury-related or even dental pains. Some types of opioids can reduce mild and severe pains, coughs and severe diarrhea, as included in the list by  National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Hence, Volkow advised to limit the use of opioids and not misuse them to prevent the risk of related risks. She further explained that in case there is a need for a long term use such as for women who need treatment for heroin addiction, there must be a thorough assessment and monitoring to inhibit the risk of neonatal abstinence syndrome, misuse and overdose.

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