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Fed Proc. 1985 Apr;44(7):2314-7.

Effects of maternal opiate abuse on the newborn.


Infants born to opiate-dependent women frequently have low birth weights and low 1- and 5-min Apgar scores. Significant postnatal problems, excluding neonatal withdrawal, can include jaundice, infection, aspiration pneumonia, transient tachypnea, and hyaline membrane disease. Neonatal abstinence may be severe and persist for as long as 3 months. Abstinence symptoms can include central nervous system hyperirritability, gastrointestinal dysfunction, respiratory distress, tremors, fever, high-pitched cry, increased muscle tone, uncoordinated sucking and swallowing reflexes, dehydration, and possible electrolyte imbalance. During the first week of life, increased respirations associated with hypocapnia and alkalosis may occur. The Brazelton Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale has been used to quantify the neurobehavioral effects on neonates of narcotics administered prenatally. A marked decline in mortality rates of infants born to opiate-dependent mothers is evident. In Philadelphia, infant morbidity has been related not only to the type of maternal narcotic dependence, but also to the amount of prenatal care. Infants whose mothers received prenatal care have been found to have higher birth weights similar to infants of control mothers. Although the newborn with intrauterine exposure to narcotic agents may appear normal at birth, the effects of the pharmacologic agent may not become apparent until later in development. To obtain a more favorable outcome for the high-risk mother and child involved in the problems of perinatal addiction, several recommendations are proposed.

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