March of Dimes recommends better tracking of NAS in all states

Body shakes, seizures, excessive crying, breathing problems, fever and other serious symptoms describe a baby born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (also known as NAS). NAS is a group of conditions caused when a baby withdraws from certain drugs he’s exposed to in the womb before birth. NAS is most often caused when a woman takes drugs called opioids during pregnancy. No baby should go through this. But about every 15 minutes, a baby is born with NAS in the United States.

To help prevent, treat and better understand NAS, we need a system to identify and count babies with this condition. Currently, we don’t have a good way to track the number of babies born with NAS across all states. In 2017, March of Dimes and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) awarded grants to Illinois, New Mexico and Vermont to estimate the number of babies born with NAS in their state. The results, published yesterday in CDC’s Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), determined the number varies widely in those states. In light of these results, March of Dimes is urging all states to have an accurate system to track the number of babies born with NAS.

“We urge all states to adapt birth defects surveillance programs to measure NAS incidence so that all moms and babies can get the health care they need, no matter which state they are born in,” says Rahul Gupta, MD, MPH, MBA, Chief Medical & Health Officer for March of Dimes. He also noted that March of Dimes has made it a priority to help and support pregnant women and babies affected by opioid use. At March of Dimes, we advocate for policies that help moms and babies have better access to health services; flexible drug treatment programs; open communication during prenatal visits; and more provider education.

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