New Guidelines Put Forth for Babies Exposed to Drugs In Utero

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has introduced a new set of guiding principles for healthcare practitioners to follow in respect to drug-exposed newborns. The organization felt the topic needed a fresh look as the number of infants experiencing drug withdrawal symptoms has risen nearly 50 percent in the past 15 years. Although part of the increase in numbers is likely due to a rise in illicit drug use, part of the change is also a result of a greater number of women receiving legal prescriptions for both painkillers and antidepressants while pregnant.

The Highlights of the Guidelines Proposed by the American Academy of Pediatrics

Alcohol is the drug that regularly causes the most irreparable harm when a child is exposed to it in the womb, and one percent of babies are diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Also, coincidently, one percent of women during their pregnancy take painkillers recreationally, such as OxyContin. The updated AAP guidelines for women addicted to these drugs (or heroin, as it affects the body similarly) recommend the following, under medical care:

  • Take methadone or buprenorphine while still pregnant and breastfeeding as detox puts the unborn fetus at a greater health risk.
  • For more serious cases, decreasing doses of methadone is advised to reduce the infant’s stress levels.
  • Breastfeeding can help the infant wean from the drug, as the mother’s methadone dose is decreased.

As for prescription antidepressants, such as Paxil, Zoloft and Prozac, the most issues are caused when the mother takes these drugs during her third trimester. Babies in this situation have increased levels of serotonin in their brain at birth, and it usually takes about two weeks for symptoms to resolve.

Quality Rehabilitation Is Key

Further research needs to be done to understand any connections to long-term mental, emotional or physical ramifications for babies who go through detox. Existing studies have found that the degree of withdrawal symptoms is not linked with future developmental delays. Some propose removing the child from their mother’s care until she is clean; however, some studies show this causes more trauma to the infant than the aftereffects of the mother’s drug use.

In fact, studies done on children born dependent upon crack found that the kids with the best future outcomes were those with mothers who refrained from drug use during their early childhood years. Generally, these were parents with access to quality drug rehabilitation treatment programs. If you know a pregnant or new mom in need of help, call us today. We can assist in providing the best shot at a bright future for her and her child.



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