Spotlight on NAS: Babies Going Through Withdrawal

Local News

It’s estimated that every 25 minutes a baby is born in the United States suffering from opioid withdrawal.

The medical term is neonatal abstinence syndrome or NAS.

“Neonatal abstinence syndrome is a set of symptoms that really are showing us that the baby is going through withdrawal from the substance that they were exposed to in utero,” Kimberlee Bliek MSRN, Director of the NICU at Arnot Ogden Medical Center said.

In severe cases the symptoms of NAS can include excessive crying, fever, rapid breathing, seizures, sleep problems, trembling and shaking, and vomiting. That’s according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. 

“The biggest needs that these babies have that they require more comfort and an environment that is low-key and quiet,” Bliek said. 

CDC Research shows that as the heroin epidemic grows so does the number of babies born with NAS, and it’s happening right here in our area.

“We’ve been watching for a while and noticing an increase over the years we went from maybe one baby that was going through withdrawal a year, maybe two a year, to one day, not long ago, we had eight situations in one day going on here at our facility in Elmira,” Mary Schrock, a local medical social worker said. 

The neonatal intensive care unit at Arnot Ogden Medical Center treated 23 babies for NAS last year. Dozens more were observed for symptoms because their mothers were using while pregnant. According to the NYS Dept. of Health, these numbers are some of the highest in the state.

To help these families healthcare professionals are urging using mothers to let their doctors know as soon as possible so the proper precautions can be taken.

“The problem is when we have families that come in and that they’re afraid to tell us that this is an issue for them,  we don’t know and they get discharged,” Bliek said. “They go home with a baby that might be developing these symptoms and that’s where it gets scary and unsafe.”

“Talk to your obstetrician let’s see if we can get you into program, let’s see how we can help so that we can help your baby,” Schrock said. 

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