Risk Factors Associated with the Occurrence of Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome: A Review

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

In a number of countries, the prevalence of neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (NOWS) is increasing. While NOWS is ultimately the result of opioid exposure in utero, a wide range of risk factors have been associated with the prevalence of NOWS, extending beyond just drug exposure. This article reviews the available literature on factors associated with the incidence of NOWS in opioid-exposed neonates. A range of risk factors have been associated with NOWS, including features of neonatal drug exposure, maternal and neonatal characteristics, aspects of labor and delivery, and genetics. Increased length of gestation and higher birth weight were consistently associated with an increased risk of NOWS, while breast feeding and ‘rooming-in’ were associated with a reduced risk of NOWS. Additionally, several genetic factors have also been associated with NOWS severity. There is conflicting evidence on the association between NOWS and other risk factors including opioid dose, neonate sex, and the use of some medications during pregnancy. This may be in part attributable to differences in how NOWS is diagnosed and the variety of methodologies across studies. While a large number of risk factors associated with NOWS are non-modifiable, encouraging pregnant women to reduce other drug use (including smoking), breast feed their child, and the judicious use of medications during pregnancy may help reduce the prevalence of NOWS. The presence or absence of NOWS in an opioid-exposed neonate is associated with a wide range of factors. Some of these modifiable risk factors may be potential targets for the primary prevention of NOWS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1113-1120
Number of pages8
JournalCNS Drugs
Volume33
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019

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