The surge in addictions to prescription painkillers that has swept the country in recent years is also showing up in maternity wards. Doctors report an increase in babies born addicted to opioids or benzodiazepines. In a report published Sunday, the American Academy of Pediatrics calls for health professionals to step up their efforts to identify and treat addicted newborns.
The paper, published in the February edition of the journal Pediatrics, reviews the long list of substances that can affect babies in utero. In newborns, it may take hours to days for symptoms of drug withdrawal to show up, the authors note. Alcohol-addicted babies can begin withdrawals within 12 hours while withdrawal symptoms from sedatives or hypnotics may not be apparent for two weeks after birth.
Symptoms of drug dependence in newborns can be assessed by the baby’s overall health, such as birth weight, type of cry, sleep patterns, tremors and feeding ability. Some babies may need to be treated with medications to ease symptoms.
Every hospital nursery should have a plan to screen for maternal substance abuse.