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Signs and Symptoms of Drug-Addicted Babies

Pregnant women should know whatever they eat, drink, smoke or snort may pass directly from their blood system into their baby's circulatory system through the placenta or the umbilical cord. This means if you feel it, there's a good chance your baby feels it too. Some babies are born addicted to the same drugs a mother may ingest during her pregnancy, leading to a variety of signs and symptoms in the infant following birth, according to Boston Children's Hospital 1. Understanding some of these signs and symptoms of drug addiction may encourage women to seek immediate help for their babies.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

An infant born addicted to drugs may experience a number of signs and symptoms when that drug is no longer available, such as following birth, according to Boston Children's Hospital 1. Some of the most common signs and symptoms of this condition, known as neonatal abstinence syndrome, include:

  • tremors
  • excessive crying
  • a tight muscle tone or stiffness
  • rapid breathing
  • fever 1

Other signs may include vomiting and diarrhea, sweating and excessive reflex reactions.

Common Signs

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Premature births, low birth weight and delays in development are common signs of a drug-addicted infant, according to the American Pregnancy Association 2. Delayed development may result in a baby's inability to breath properly due to underformed lungs and low levels of blood sugar.

Stiff Joints

Some babies addicted to drugs such as heroin can experience joint stiffness and convulsions, according to the American Pregnancy Association 2. Tremors are also often associated with drug addiction in infants, most noticeably in their extremities. Stiffness of joints may also be caused by muscle spasms, a common sign of withdrawal from methamphetamine, according to the American Pregnancy Association 2.

Cardiac Issues

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A drug-addicted baby may also show signs of abnormal heart rate and rhythms, according to Dr. Michael Spigarelli, assistant professor of adolescent medicine at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. The baby may have an elevated heart rate, which means his heart is beating much faster than it should, or even high blood pressure.

Learning Disabilities

A baby born addicted to drugs may experience delays in learning, from rolling over to crawling, to walking and later on, in school. The severity of the learning or developmental milestones common to infants and babies will depend on the drug and the severity of drug use in the pregnant mother, according to the American Council for Drug Education.