The drug problem in Scotland has long been an issue but recent figures show that increasing numbers of babies are being born addicted to alcohol or drugs in the Tayside area. NHS Tayside released figures showing that 21 babies have been treated for neonatal abstinence syndrome so far this financial year.
In 2012/13, there were 15 babies treated. However, that number has risen to 18 for the whole period of 2013/14, which is disturbing news. In Dundee alone, the number of babies treated was 15, up from 10 last year and 9 the previous year.
NHS Tayside said that the majority of babies treated had been exposed to prescribed methadone but it did not say which substances they were treated for. However, neonatal abstinence syndrome usually occurs in babies whose mothers were alcoholics or who were using drugs such as codeine, methadone, or heroin while pregnant.
What is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome?
When a pregnant woman takes drugs or alcohol, the substance passes through the placenta, which can result in the baby becoming addicted as well as the mother. When the baby is born, he or she is addicted to the drugs or alcohol but, as they no longer receive them, go through the process of withdrawal. The baby may then develop symptoms associated with withdrawal.
Symptoms of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome
There are a number of symptoms that the baby can suffer with but these will depend on the type of drug that it has become addicted to as well as how much of the drug the mother was taking. The symptoms will also depend on whether or not the baby was full-term or premature. Symptoms can include:
- high pitched crying
- excessive suckling
- blotchy skin
- excessive crying
- poor feeding
- hyperactive reflexes
- rapid breathing
- sleep problems
- sneezing, stuffy nose
- slow weight gain
Doctors will need to carry out a number of tests and will ask the mother questions in order to establish whether neonatal abstinence syndrome is causing the symptoms. This is because the above symptoms can also be caused by other conditions. Doctors will test the baby’s urine and bowel movements, using a scoring system to help diagnose the condition.
Complications of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome
A number of complications can occur because of neonatal abstinence syndrome, including:
- low birth weight
- small head circumference
- birth defects
- sudden infant death syndrome
- premature birth
- development problems
- behavioural problems.
Preventing Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome
The last thing any mother would want is to see their child suffering. However, addicts cannot control their need for the drug they are addicted to. The problem with addiction is that the compulsion for taking the substance is stronger than anything else. This is that which causes a pregnant woman to continue drinking or taking drugs even if she knows it is harming her unborn child.
The best solution is to get treatment for the addiction as soon as the pregnancy becomes known. At Rehab Helper, we have a team of experts ready to offer support and advice and to find the most suitable rehabilitation centre available. If you are a pregnant addict, we are here to help. Alternatively, if you have a loved one who is an addict and pregnant, we can help you to help her get the treatment she needs. Call us today for free, confidential, and invaluable advice.