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WomenCare WNY » Services » Pregnancy » Prescription Drug Withdrawal

Prescription Drug Withdrawal

Many pregnant women who are regularly taking prescription pain killers such as Lortabs were prescribed these drugs after car accidents or back surgery.

Lortab and all prescription pain medications may have an effect on your baby and your pregnancy. The most important effect is that your baby may be born physically dependent (NOT addicted) and require treatment for these symptoms.

If you are currently pregnant and taking prescription pain killers, consult with your physician or call one of our STAR treatment centers.

It is important that you discuss the possible effects of your medication with your doctor. In many cases, it is necessary and appropriate to continue your medications during your pregnancy. If they need to be stopped, it should be done with the assistance of your doctor.

Monitoring Your Baby for Withdrawal at the Hospital

At Catholic Health, babies are delivered at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo and Sisters of Charity Hospital in Buffalo.

If you are taking prescription pain killers, your newborn will be monitored by our staff for a minimum of five days for signs of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS).

Your baby will need to remain at the hospital after you are discharged. 55-95% of infants whose mothers have an addiction will experience some type of withdrawal.

Signs of withdrawal can be mistaken for a "fussy baby," but without monitoring, the baby is at risk for serious complications.

Typically, the average length of stay for a baby experiencing withdrawal is 18 days, but it can be as long as two months, especially if the baby's symptoms worsen and medication is needed to help them through this period safely.

As we monitor your baby, we will:

  • provide you with information on how to care for your baby during difficult times.
  • help with feeding to encourage growth and well being either in frequent feedings or possibly with special formula. We will encourage breastfeeding when possible.
  • monitor baby's skin and use crèmes to stop or limit skin ulcers or abrasion.
  • use medicine when needed.

Signs of Withdrawal

Some of the signs that we monitor your baby for include:

  • Increased muscle tone "tightness"
  • Poor eating or vomiting; often the baby looks eager to eat, but is unable to coordinate suckling or swallowing
  • High pitched or long periods of crying / fussiness with difficulty consoling the baby
  • Difficulty sleeping between feedings
  • Tremors/jitteriness or shaking without being able to control his or her movements
  • Weight loss and skin ulcers due to diarrhea and frequent stools
  • Fever/sweating
  • Frequent yawing or sneezing
  • Skin that appears "lacy” or mottled on the top; breakdown of skin on face or knees
  • Difficulty with breathing because of stuffy nose, fast breathing or forgetting to breathe
  • Possible seizures

Caring for Your Baby

Be an active participant with your baby and the care provided. Often times, it is necessary for you to be available to stay and help your infant over a rough time, especially when medications are weaned.

Soothing and Comforting Your Baby

Babies exposed to substances in pregnancy are unable to do more then one thing at a time. This is because of the discomfort their body has. Often, they need help to control their body with swaddling or a snugly, wrapping them to control their movements and provide comfort.

When your baby is crying, attempt to calm him or her before the baby reaches a frantic state.

The “C” position – holding or laying the baby in a semi circle, curling the head and legs in to form the letter “C” – gives the baby a sense of control and will help him or her to relax. As the baby improves, the “back to sleep” position is used.

Slow rhythmic swaying or vertical rocking also helps to settle and relax an upset baby. A position that babies find comforting is by holding him or her about 2 inches away from your body, facing away from you and moving in a slow rhythmic sway from head to toe while in a “C” position.

Do not rock your baby back and forth or swing or bounce your baby. These movements are jarring to your baby.

Slow, gentle patting of the baby's diapered and blanketed bottom can be soothing. If your baby does not respond well, it may be overstimulating him or her, and another comfort measure should be tried.

Skin Care

Babies going through withdrawal are at risk for skin breakdown (ulcers or abrasions) due to frequent watery stools. Excessive rubbing may cause breakdown on the knees and face.

  • Use a barrier wipe and cream on the entire body to provide protection from trauma to the skin.
  • Swaddling also helps to reduce trauma.
  • To clean your baby, use a squirt bottle and blot his or her skin, which prevents further irritation from rubbing.


Vomiting and diarrhea are common signs of withdrawal.

  • Small, frequent feedings with high-calorie formulas are necessary.
  • Cue-based feedings may be used.
  • We will promote breastfeeding when possible after consultation with your doctor to determine the safety for your baby.


Medications are needed when a newborn has seizures, weight loss or failure to gain weight, worsening or consistently high withdrawal scores, or an inability to sleep.

Medication can provide comfort, help reduce and control symptoms and optimize feeding / weight gain. Morphine is usually given and can be administrated with each feeding and helps with loose stools.

If your baby is taking medication, he or she will be monitored at all times.


A quiet, undisturbed area is soothing and comforts your baby when he or she is crabby. Initially, your baby will need all care to be provided at once, with limited handling and low noise and light. Bright, loud environments are too stressful for the withdrawing infant. As your baby gains better control, light and noise will be introduced at your baby’s pace and in ways your baby can handle.

Control your baby's environment.

Interact with your baby when he or she is ready and in an alert state – not just because you want to.

Recovering from an Addiction to Pain Killers

If you're experiencing an addiction to pain killers, we can help.

Our staff works to help you recover from an addiction to pain killers and ensures that your baby receives proper care.

Please call our women's clinic for an appointment with an OB/GYN.

You can also contact our Substance Treatment and Recovery (STAR) program for an appointment with our staff, who work collaboratively with other OB/GYNs in the community.

More Information

Phone  Call our HealthConnection line at (716) 706-2112, 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday - Friday
Email Email us

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