UC Baby Blog Aug Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) is an effect of the mother’s drug use during pregnancy, leading to both short and long-term effects on both the mother and child. This especially applies to opioid use.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) occurs after a baby is born when they are going through withdrawal from the substances they were exposed to during gestation. Approximately 0.51% of infants born in Canada annually have NAS.

The type of substance used by the mother may influence how long the withdrawal symptoms take to present themselves. However, symptoms usually occur within the first 72 hours after birth.

This blog will analyze some of the symptoms that present themselves in infants diagnosed with NAS.

Neonatal Abstinence Symptoms

1. Trouble Sleeping

Babies going through withdrawal experience a lot of discomfort and are difficult to soothe. Trouble sleeping is a result of this discomfort. Excessive yawning and tiredness can arise from this.

2. Tremors, Convulsions, Twitching

A baby’s nervous system is incredibly affected by their mother’s drug use during pregnancy. During the immediate postpartum period, body shakes, seizures, and overactive reflexes are common.

3. Breathing Problems

Babies may breathe heavy or fast for a time after birth.

4. Diarrhea or Vomiting

A baby’s system takes time to get used to the absence of a drug in their system, the same way adults do. Withdrawal can manifest itself in digestive problems such as diarrhea and vomiting.

5. Excessive Crying

This symptom arises because a baby is both uncomfortable and difficult to soothe.

6. Poor Feeding

As with most things during this syndrome, it is difficult for a baby to eat during their withdrawal. Poor feeding or latching can also be related to digestive issues.

7. Trouble Gaining Weight

Due to a lack of substantial feeding, a baby may have problems gaining weight in the days following birth.

8. Fever

An infant’s immune system is working overtime during the withdrawal process. This leads to fever.

9. Tight Muscle Tone

A baby’s arms and legs get quite stiff during this time due to their nervous system being affected by withdrawal.

10. Seizures

Seizures are some of the more severe symptoms that can manifest in infants due to withdrawing from certain substances.

11. Stuffy Nose

Several of these symptoms present themselves as though they are the flu or a cold. This can be because the body is fighting withdrawal like an illness.

How is the severity of the symptoms scored?

A scoring system is used to monitor the baby and determine treatment. The Finnegan scale is commonly used for this purpose. The first score is taken within two hours of the baby’s birth. Subsequently, the score is taken every three to four hours to monitor the baby’s progress. This process is administered for up to 120 hours to ensure proper treatment.

If you or someone you know are ingesting opioids while pregnant, it is important to talk to your doctor about future steps.



Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome 

Managing infants born to mothers who have used opioids during pregnancy

What is neonatal abstinence syndrome?


Written by: Gabrielle Goldson

Check out our blog  – 6 Signs of Postpartum Depression to Look Out For