Opioid use in pregnancy has increased in recent years. Pregnancy provides an important opportunity to identify and treat women with substance use disorders. Our maternal mental health specialist, licensed addiction counselor and maternal fetal medicine specialists work in partnership with the pregnant woman to provide long-term care which includes medical, developmental and social support services. Early treatment of pregnant women with opioid use and opioid use disorder improve maternal and infant outcomes.
The time before birth and through the first year of life is exciting and stressful for all parents. Infants that are exposed to drugs during pregnancy need extra loving care as they may go through withdrawal, known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). This can occur after birth when exposed infants are cut off from the medications or drugs that were used by the mother during pregnancy.
Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome refers to withdrawal symptoms that babies may have if their mothers used or were prescribed drugs such as narcotics (methadone, morphine, Oxycodone, Percocet, Suboxone/Subetex and Vicodin), sedatives (Valium, Ativan and Xanax) or other addictive drugs (cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and methamphetamine).
It’s difficult to know which infants will have withdrawal symptoms. Some infants will have NAS even if their mothers only took small doses of drugs and/or medications for brief times during pregnancy. Others may show signs of withdrawal sooner if their mothers took larger amounts of drugs for a longer time or period during pregnancy. All infants who’ve been exposed to drugs during pregnancy will need to be observed for at least five days following birth. This is a critical time when withdrawal symptoms may begin to show. By observing and treating babies early, symptoms may be managed without morphine for some babies, hospital stays can be shorter and severe withdrawal symptoms such as seizures can be managed or avoided.
Most infants will show signs of withdrawal, or NAS, between 1-4 days after birth. These symptoms may be mild and go away quickly or may continue for months. This can depend on whether or not the mother used other kinds of substances as well, such as alcohol, tobacco or additional medications. Any infant who has been exposed to drugs during pregnancy will remain in the hospital with mom for at least five days for observation.
It’s important that you let your nurse and doctor know about any drugs you are currently using or have used during your pregnancy. This will help medical providers to give appropriate medicines to you and your baby, deliver the best care, and discharge your baby home as soon as possible.
Additional Patient Resources
Ronald McDonald House
- (406) 541-7646
Offers families a place to stay while babies are receiving medical care in the hospital.
- (406) 532-9900
Outpatient and inpatient support for those suffering from substance use disorders.