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Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Apr 2, 2024.

What is neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS)?

NAS develops when a baby is no longer exposed to a substance his or her mother used during pregnancy. Examples include heroin, codeine, and oxycodone. Other substances such as alcohol, nicotine, amphetamines, and benzodiazepines may also cause NAS. The baby is affected by the substance while in the womb and becomes dependent on it. When the baby is born, he or she is still dependent on the substance. The baby may also become dependent on medicines given for sedation or pain after he or she is born. The sudden lack of the substance causes withdrawal symptoms.

What are the signs and symptoms of NAS?

Signs and symptoms depend on the amount and kind of substance involved. Substance use during pregnancy may cause your baby to be born sooner than is recommended (preterm). It may also prevent your baby from growing properly in the womb. The following may begin when your baby is born, or several days later:

How is NAS diagnosed?

Your baby's healthcare provider will ask if his or her mother used any substances during pregnancy. The provider will ask how often she used them. The provider will ask when the mother last used the substance, and how much she used. The following may also be needed:

How is NAS treated?

Your baby may need to stay in the hospital for up to a week after birth. He or she may not have symptoms at first.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) for any of the following:

When should I seek immediate care?

When should I call my baby's doctor?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your baby's care. Learn about your baby's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your baby's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your baby. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.