First Six Months with a Baby with Opioid Exposure

Are you considering adopting or fostering a baby who was exposed to opioids prenatally? We talk with Dr. Robin Gurwitch, a faculty member in the Duke University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the Center for Child and Family Health. Her research focuses on improving the outcomes and increasing resilience in children who have experienced trauma, including prenatal exposure.

In this episode, we cover:

  • What drugs are included in the category of opioids?
    • Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others. 
    • Methadone and suboxone?
  • How does prenatal exposure to opioids affect a fetus?
  • How can you tell if the baby is born dependent on opioids?
  • What are the symptoms of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)?
  • How common is testing of the newborn or mother?
  • What impacts the severity of the withdrawal symptoms an infant might experience?
    • timing of the mother’s most recent intake of opioid
    • maternal metabolism
    • placental metabolism
    • infant metabolism and excretion
    • maternal taking of other substances, including cigarettes, alcohol, cocaine, hypnotics sedatives, and/or barbiturates
  • How is NAS treated in the hospital?
  • What can parents expect at the hospital when a baby is born dependent or was exposed prenatally?
  • What can parents expect when they first bring the baby home?
  • How can parents help soothe a baby going through withdrawal?
  • How can parents help a baby going through withdrawal with sucking?
  • What can parents do to help their baby exposed to opioids sleep through the night?
  • Any additional tips for dealing with and helping a baby who was exposed to opioids?
  • Long term impacts.
  • Does being born dependent predict the degree the child might be impacted?

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Music Credit: Michael Ashworth

Image Credit: Marcin Jozwiak