Non-Prescription & Prescription Drugs During Pregnancy

Catholic Health Prescription Drug Use during Pregnancy

If you are taking prescription pain killers, your newborn may be born physically dependent and will require treatment for symptoms. Your newborn will be monitored by our staff for a minimum of five days for signs of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS).

55-95% of infants whose mothers have an addiction will experience some type of withdrawal.

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

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

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

Managing Your Pain During Labor and After Birth

We want to make sure that we are helping you take care of your pain during and after birth. We will often use many techniques to help you experience the labor and birth that you are hoping for. One of the most proven methods to reduce pain and complications during labor is the use of a doula. Doulas are available in Erie county through Medicaid reimbursement or private pay options. For information about available doula services offered by New York State click here. For more information about the doula program associated with Catholic Health, click here.

Other types of pain relief will focus on using water, heat, movement, as well as pain medication.

After the birth of your baby, we will use a variety of types of medication to help you stay comfortable. Again, using natural and proven pain relieving techniques like gentle walking, heat, massage and other natural methods also improves comfort after the birth of your baby. 

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, loses weight or fails to gain weight, has worsening or consistently high withdrawal scores, or is unable to sleep.

Medication can provide comfort, help reduce and control symptoms, increase weight, and loosen stools. Morphine is usually given and can be administrated with each feeding.

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.

Recovering from an Addiction to Pain Killers

If you're experiencing an addiction to pain killers, our Substance Treatment and Recovery (STAR) program can help. Click here for more information.