Fewer NAS babies born in East Tennessee

Oct. 3, 2017

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Last year, the rate of neonatal abstinence syndrome in Tennessee dropped in some areas

While the opioid crisis continues to wreak devastation throughout the state, one of the hardest hit areas is seeing a glimmer of good news.

Last year, the number of babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) dropped by:

  • 18% in Knox County and
  • 12% in East Tennessee overall.

NAS occurs when a pregnant woman abuses drugs and her unborn child develops a dependency on them in the womb.

East Tennessee Children's Hospital saw so many babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome they created their own protocol to treat it.

Awareness of the dangers of drug use during pregnancy has had an impact on women of childbearing age. But the decrease in the number of NAS babies in Knox County has been largely attributed to new practices based on research that shows detoxing during pregnancy is safe for both mother and baby.

Dr. Stephen Loyd, assistant commissioner for substance abuse services at the Tennessee Department of Health, told a Knoxville TV station that’s a crucial development.

“We now know that under the right circumstances and on a voluntary basis we can safely get women off of these medications while they’re pregnant with a low relapse rate, given the right resources,” says Loyd, “and that’s potentially paradigm shifting.”