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An infant that has been exposed to drugs within the womb is a life that has been damaged even before the birth of the child. Infants of drug-addicted mothers tend to suffer from withdrawal, irritability, poor motor skills, and developmental delays, sleep disturbance, including other various defects. However, infants within such situations can be natured and cured with the provision of a responsible caregiver. Infants that have gotten exposed to drugs suffer from what is known as neonatal abstinence syndrome. This situations occur within infants as a result of a mother’s continuous use of illicit substances that result in drug dependence and addiction within the mother which results in also the infant become addicted.
When the infant is born, the infant has a continued dependence on the substances used during development in the womb. Hence, at birth, the infant develops dependence of the drug which leads to the infant’s central nervous system becoming overstimulated resulting in symptoms withdrawal within the infant. Infants that suffer from neonatal abstinence syndrome suffer from various forms of symptoms depending on the type of drug used and for how long during the pregnancy the drug got used and whether the birth of the infant was full term or premature (Anon, 2018). Symptoms of withdrawal within infants can be noticed as early as 24hrs of birth or even as late as ten days of birth. Infants suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome develop the following symptoms depending on the substance of use:
- Loud crying
- Sleeping problems
- Hyperactive reflexes
However, premature infants have a lower risk of suffering from withdrawal and have the ability to recover more quickly. Hence, to develop a proper strategy in helping infants suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome. It is vital to have an accurate report of the mother’s drug use, which includes the last time the drug got taken. A neonatal abstinence scoring system may also be implemented o help diagnose as well as understand the severity of the withdrawal symptoms within the infant (Anon, 2018). The scoring plan also aids in planning for the treatment necessary.
Treatment for babies that suffer from drug abuse is usually determined by the baby’s doctor, which gets based on many factors which include:
- Infant’s gestational age, health and medical history.
- Extent of withdrawal symptoms
- Infants tolerance to medication, therapies and procedures
- Expectations for the course of the withdrawal
Early Intervention for Infants
Infants that have gotten exposed to drugs should receive more than the usual standard medical care. Hence, such follow-up should be undertaken under the supervision of a trained pediatrician. The steps should include:
- Psychomotor assessment and monitoring of development
- Hearing and vision screening
- Speech assessment therapy
- Emotional development therapy.
Neonatal abstinence syndrome is easily preventable if expectant mothers receive the required care and treatment. One of the most effective forms of prevention strategies is through improving preconception health care and also educating both the patient and providers in regards to the appropriate use of drugs during the pregnancy period. Despite what is known about neonatal abstinence syndrome, there is still a lot of question that remains unanswered in regards to how to properly provide quality care for infants born addicted to drugs. Consequently, not all strategies are the same when it comes to caring for infants born addicted to drugs.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Primary Prevention and Public Health Strategies to Prevent Neonatal Ab. [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/cdcgrandrounds/archives/2016/August2016.htm [Accessed 7 Feb. 2018].
- Anon, (2018). [online] Available at: http://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=neonatal-abstinence-syndrome-90-P02387 [Accessed 7 Feb. 2018].