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The only way to prevent infants from being born into opioid withdrawal is to help their mothers get the education, support and treatment they desperately want and need. Help us connect moms and their babies with a healthy path forward.

A life-changing project of the Prevention Council of Roanoke.

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Mother and Newborn

What is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome?

Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) occurs when an infant becomes dependent on opioids or other drugs used by the mother during pregnancy. The infant experiences withdrawal symptoms that can include (but are not limited to) tremors, diarrhea, fever, irritability, seizures, and difficulty feeding.

NAS increased nearly fivefold nationally between 2000 to 2012, coinciding with rising rates of opioid prescribing to pregnant women.


Risks of Opioid Misuse During Pregnancy

Untreated opioid use disorder during pregnancy can have devastating consequences for the unborn baby. Fluctuating levels of opioids in the mother may expose the fetus to repeated periods of withdrawal, which can harm placenta function.


Other direct physical risks include:

  • neonatal abstinence syndrome

  • stunted growth

  • preterm labor

  • fetal convulsions

  • fetal death


Other indirect risks to the fetus include:

  • increased risk for maternal infection (e.g., HIV, HBV, HCV)

  • malnutrition and poor prenatal care

  • dangers from drug seeking (e.g., violence and incarceration)

Improving Engagement in Treatment

  • Stigma and bias among healthcare providers can result in both under-reporting of drug use and insufficient medication dosing, which often lead to delayed or ineffective treatments.

  • Eighteen states classify maternal drug use as child abuse, and three states consider it as reason for involuntary hospitalization, disincentivizing women from seeking treatment.

  • Women who are allowed to stay with their children during treatment are more likely to start treatment and maintain abstinence.


Supporting access to treatment.

Health insurance providers that cover treatment for substance use disorders are required to provide coverage equivalent to what is provided for other health conditions. Visit HHS' website to learn more about parity protections and insurance help for mental health or addiction services.


Where Can I Get More Information?

If you or someone you care about is pregnant and has an opioid use disorder:

You can directly support our work by making a tax-deductible contribution here:

Thank you.

Hand-picked videos from around the web.

Hand-picked references from around the web.

>  “Addressing Opioid Use Disorder With Mothers-To-Be”  

Article by SAMHSA   11/18 

> Fighting Addiction and Stigmas: The Impact of Prenatal Drug Exposure on Mothers and Babies

The Graphic, Pepperdine University  | 3/19

Prenatal substance use affects women of all regions, races and socioeconomic groups, explains Dr. Hendree Jones, executive director of University of North Carolina (UNC) Horizons Program and professor in the UNC Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Birthing Centre

“Healthy Pregnancy Healthy Baby Fact Sheets”

from the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)


This series of four fact sheets emphasizes the importance of continuing a mother's treatment for opioid use disorder throughout pregnancy, including information on opioid use disorder and pregnancy, treatment, neonatal abstinence syndrome, and considerations to address before hospital discharge.  

> Opioid Use Disorder and Pregnancy 

Taking helpful steps for a healthy pregnancy

Fact sheet 1 of 4 

> Treating Opioid Use Disorder During Pregnancy 

Getting the help and support you need from your healthcare professionals

Fact sheet 2 of 4

> Treating Babies Who Were Exposed to Opioids Before Birth

Support for a new beginning

Fact sheet 3 of 4

> Good Care for You and Your Baby While Receiving Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

Steps for healthy growth and development

Fact sheet 4 of 4


Additional SAMHSA references for Opioid Use disorder can be found here.  

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