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Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)
by TeenHelp November 3rd 2017, 11:42 PM

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)
By Brittany (.Brittany.)

What is it?

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, also known as NAS, is a group of withdrawal symptoms that a baby is born with when the mom has taken certain types of drugs while pregnant. These drugs can include Heroin, Oxycodone, and Meth. The reason that the baby is born with withdrawal symptoms is because the umbilical cord is attached from the baby to the mom's placenta, which means when the mom smokes or does drugs, it makes its way through the umbilical cord and into the baby. If the mom does drugs within a week of delivering, the baby will be 100% dependent on that drug and will go into severe withdrawal.


The symptoms really depend on what drug the mom was using as well as how much and whether or not the baby was full term or premature.

Most symptoms don't start showing until 24-72 hours after birth. Because of this, most NAS babies have to be kept in a Special Care Nursery (SCN) or a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Depending on how bad the withdrawals are, this stay in the hospital can last a week or longer. Some babies spend months in the NICU.

Some of the main symptoms may include:
  • Odd skin colour (blotchy)
  • Excessive and high pitched crying
  • Fever
  • Irritability
  • Rapid breathing
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Vomiting


There are a couple of different tests that can be done to figure out if the baby is dependent on the drug. The Finnegan scoring is the most popular test to determine whether or not a baby has NAS. Another way is for a toxicology test to be done. This can either be done via the baby's hair, urine, or meconium (which is the first stool a baby has).

Finnegan Scoring

This is the Finnegan scoring sheet that the NICU nurses use to determine the severity of the withdrawal.


The overall treatment depends on how much of what drug the baby had during their time in the womb. It also depends on the score from the Finnegan scoring and their gestational age (how far along the mom was when she gave birth to the baby).
  • Rock the baby gently
  • Reduce light and noise
  • Intravenous Fluids (IVF's)
  • Possibly morphine for the pain.
  • Swaddling the baby in a blanket
  • Other TLC (Tender Loving Care)

  • Low birth weight
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • Other types of medical conditions due to being premature
  • Behaviour and development issues


The best way to prevent your child being born with NAS is to discuss all of your medications with your doctor once you're pregnant. Then you need to maintain taking only what your doctor has told you to, and not take part in using any illicit street drugs or alcohol.

What you can do

Most of the babies who are going through NAS need a lot of attention, and sometimes they need to be cuddled. Nurses are so busy as they usually have several babies that they welcome volunteer cuddlers. Check your local hospital to see if they offer this and to see if there's an age requirement. Also, you would need to check to see if they have any health requirements. Each hospital is different, but most of the time they would like you to have updated vaccines including: MMR (Measles Mumps and Rubella), Varicella (Chicken Pox), Influenza (Flu Shot), a 2-step Tb test (tuberculosis), as well as a background check. They will be very thankful if you're able to offer your time.



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abstinence, nas, neonatal, syndrome

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