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Withdrawal Symptoms of a Newborn on Methadone

author image Sharon Perkins
A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.
Withdrawal Symptoms of a Newborn on Methadone
Needle Photo Credit: Montague_Stone/iStock/Getty Images

Women who are addicted to heroin are often given methadone, a synthetic narcotic, to take instead of heroin. Methadone withdrawal is a common cause of withdrawal in newborns. The majority of mothers who take methadone in pregnancy will give birth to an addicted baby. Withdrawal affects many systems in your newborn's body.

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Central Nervous System Symptoms

Babies born addicted to methadone will go through withdrawal after delivery, usually within 24 to 48 hours. Newborns undergoing withdrawal from opiates and synthetic narcotics such as methadone are classified as having Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS. Central nervous system symptoms of NAS include irritability, shrill cry, increased startle reflex and Moro reflex and increased muscle tone. Newborns with CNS symptoms may also be jittery, have fluctuating muscle tone, sleep less than normal and be easily disturbed by outside stimuli. Some infants will have seizures caused by withdrawal.

Gastrointestinal and Respiratory Symptoms

NAS symptoms that affect the gastrointestinal system are poor feeding, increased need for sucking, poor suck-swallow coordination, dehydration, poor weight gain, and vomiting and watery stools. Respiratory symptoms of NAS include rapid breathing, frequent sneezing or yawning, stuffy nose and nasal flaring.

Other Symptoms

Other symptoms of NAS include temperature instability or fever, skin mottling, increased sweating, and excoriation of extremities from increased restless movement. The risk of sudden infant death syndrome is reported to be slightly higher in addicted infants than in the general population.

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