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​Frequently Asked Questions About Substance Abuse Treatment for Expectant Mothers

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Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) is the presence of drug withdrawal symptoms in a newborn. The severity of symptoms depend on a number of factors including the mother’s regular dose size, how long the mother has been using, type of substance used, and date of last dose.


Typically, an infant will begin showing withdrawal symptoms anywhere from 24 to 48 hours after birth, but can show symptoms as late as five to ten days.


Types of symptoms may include:

  • Irritability or fussy behavior
  • Difficulty being comforted
  • Blotchy skin
  • Rapid breathing
  • Continuous or high-pitched crying
  • Tremors or seizures
  • Diarrhea, vomiting, or dehydration
  • Fever
  • Difficulty breastfeeding

An NAS assessment of withdrawal is made based on symptom type and severity. If necessary, a baby may need medication or an IV to replenish hydration, or may stay longer in a special care setting. All infants, whether they are taking medication or not, will be under continuous observation.


To help alleviate an infant’s discomfort, a parent or relative can try wrapping the baby in swaddling blankets, reducing noise or bright lights, or rocking or soothing the baby. A physician should be consulted if additional help is needed or concerns arise.

Magee’s Perinatal and Neonatal Substance Abuse Services provide comprehensive and compassionate inpatient and outpatient programs to help pregnant women with Opioid Use Disorder and their babies. Magee is one of a few hospitals to offer inpatient methadone conversions during pregnancy.

Babies respond to withdrawal differently. All infants are monitored after birth using a standardized assessment tool for evidence of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). Based on the assessment, infants may require an extended stay in a special care setting.

If the NAS assessment indicates that medication is needed, infants may be transferred to a Level II nursery. If no medication is needed, continued observation may still be required.

Magee recognizes the importance of mother-infant bonding. For those infants born to mothers with Opioid Use Disorder, the babies will remain with their mothers whenever possible.

During hospitalization, assessments are conducted with plans for outpatient follow-up. Discharge planning is completed during this time, including establishment of a post-discharge follow-up with a community pediatrician.

Magee’s partnership with the Perinatal Addiction Center of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic allows Magee to treat patients with single or co-occurring substance abuse disorders.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) is the presence of drug withdrawal symptoms in a newborn. The severity of symptoms depend on a number of factors including the mother’s regular dose size, how long the mother has been using, type of substance used, and date of last dose.


Typically, an infant will begin showing withdrawal symptoms anywhere from 24 to 48 hours after birth, but can show symptoms as late as five to ten days.


Types of symptoms may include:

  • Irritability or fussy behavior
  • Difficulty being comforted
  • Blotchy skin
  • Rapid breathing
  • Continuous or high-pitched crying
  • Tremors or seizures
  • Diarrhea, vomiting, or dehydration
  • Fever
  • Difficulty breastfeeding

An NAS assessment of withdrawal is made based on symptom type and severity. If necessary, a baby may need medication or an IV to replenish hydration, or may stay longer in a special care setting. All infants, whether they are taking medication or not, will be under continuous observation.


To help alleviate an infant’s discomfort, a parent or relative can try wrapping the baby in swaddling blankets, reducing noise or bright lights, or rocking or soothing the baby. A physician should be consulted if additional help is needed or concerns arise.

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