Maternal substance abuse may consist of any combination of drug, chemical, alcohol, and tobacco use during the pregnancy.
While in the womb, a fetus grows and develops due to nourishment from the mother via the placenta. However, along with nutrients, any toxins in the mother's system may be delivered to the fetus. These toxins may cause damage to the developing fetal organs. A baby also may become dependent on substances used by the mother.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS SEEN IN AN INFANT OF A SUBSTANCE-ABUSING MOTHER?
Babies born to substance-abusing mothers may have short- or long-term effects.
More significant long-term developmental problems may be seen in babies who are born with growth failure or various organ problems.
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT FOR AN INFANT OF A SUBSTANCE-ABUSING MOTHER?
The baby's treatment will depend on the drugs the mother used. Treatment may involve:
In the case of babies whose mothers used narcotics, the baby is most often given small doses of a narcotic at first. The amount is slowly adjusted as the baby is weaned off of the substance over days to weeks. Sedatives are sometimes used as well.
Infants with organ damage, birth defects or developmental issues may need medical or surgical therapy and long-term therapies.
These infants are more likely to grow up in homes that do not promote healthy, emotional, and mental development. They and their families will benefit from long-term support.
Reviewed By: Kimberly G. Lee, MD, MSc, IBCLC, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.