Babies can be born dependent on drugs, even prescription medicine. An East Tennessee mother shares her story to prevent Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.
Babies who are born dependent on drugs have horrible withdrawal symptoms.
East Tennessee Children's Hospital helps them heal.
After a month at Children's Hospital, little Jason was ready to go home.
"He's off his medicine. He's off his monitors. And he's perfect. he's happy, healthy, laughs, coos, sleeps, you know does all the stuff normal one month olds do," his mother Angela said.
Jason was treated for NAS: Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.
"Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome is a medical condition that occurs when a baby has been exposed during pregnancy to opiates," Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Carla Saunders explained.
In Jason's case, his mother took a specific prescription medicine for chronic migraine headaches, one she was told was safe for her unborn child.
"A migraine is like the worst pain you've ever had in your life times ten," she said. "They're worse than child birth, way worse."
Angela knows. Jason is her sixth child and the only one who suffered drug withdrawal after birth.
"It was rough. Especially not getting to touch him, not getting to love on him and try to bond with him and nurse him like we had planned because for nine months that's what we had planned," she said.
"When the baby is born and the cord is cut the baby's supply is gone and the baby begins to have signs of physical withdrawal," Carla Saunders said. "The things you would normally do to console a baby - feeding, diapering, holding -- those kinds of things don't work. The baby will cry through them and sometimes even get worse."
Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Carla Saunders is part of a team that developed a way to treat babies with NAS with morphine. At Children's Hospital, they are evaluated every three hours to tweak the dose and then slowly weaned off it.
"The doses we use are drops. They are very teeny teeny tiny drops, just enough to calm those opiate receptors in the brain," she said.
Opiates invite visions of drug addicts and that's just not always the case.
"Even at doctors offices and things like that when they find out who you are and you're possibly going to have an NAS baby they just automatically change. You go from being called ma'am to here," Angela said.
Angela hopes her experience will take away some of the stigma of being the mother of a baby with NAS.
"There's a lot of different things that babies can go through withdrawal over. It's not just street drugs it can be prescription medications," she said.
She urges pregnant women on prescription medicine to seek a second opinion to avoid what her family experienced.
"I wouldn't wish this on anybody or anything and to watch your own child going through it and knowing there's nothing... there's not one thing you can do for them but just sit there and watch it is miserable. It's the most miserable feeling you can ever have," she said.