Opioid Withdrawal in Babies Is Increasing

close-up of crying baby


Approximately every 15 minutes, a baby is born suffering from opioid withdrawal.

If an expectant mother has a problem with drugs, such as opioid use disorder (OUD), drugs can be in her baby’s system after birth. This can cause the baby painful  withdrawal symptoms and other health problems.

When a woman is pregnant, the drugs she takes are delivered to her baby through the umbilical cord. Once the baby is delivered, the drug supply is cut off and the baby can experience a type of withdrawal called neonatal abstinence syndrome. When the drugs the mom is taking are opioids, it’s called neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (NOWS).

Over the past few years, there’s been a dramatic increase in OUD among pregnant women. From 1999 to 2014, the number of women with OUD at the time of their baby’s birth more than quadrupled. That's led to a significant increase in babies with NOWS.

Women who are pregnant and have OUD should talk to their doctors about getting treatment. There's medication that can help them return to healthier lives—and help their babies.

This infographic tells more of the story (you can read a text version here):

















Find Help Near You

Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find substance use or other mental health services in your area. If you are in an emergency situation, this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member.

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