Opioids Prenatally

Babies exposed to opioids while their mothers pregnant with them may need special care even before they start to experience withdrawal symptoms; according to Penn State research. Researchers from Penn State College of Medicine found that as soon as 24 and 48 hours after birth, babies who exposed to opioids prenatally reacted more strongly to pain and scored higher on a skin conductance test; which measures the electrical differences in skin in response to pain or stress.

Body during times of stress

These babies are responding to pain differently than babies who not exposed; so may they should  paying attention to pain management earlier. If have to do a painful procedure like a heel lance; may have to provide extra comforting measures, both during the procedure and after if they continue to stressed.” According to the researchers, opioids block the release of norepinephrine, a chemical released in the body during times of stress. When the baby is born and is no longer exposing to opioids, the baby experiences a spike in norepinephrine and other chemicals and hormones in the body. This can result in such symptoms as irritability, eating poorly, sweating, fever and seizures, among others.

To best take care of these babies, it’s important that they recognize babies who are going through withdrawal very early. Wanted to see if two different tests  skin conductance measures and facial reactions to pain; would correlate and predict withdrawal in newborns; because we really need accurate ways to assess these babies.” The researchers enrolled 37 newborns 22 with prenatal opioid exposure and 15 healthy controls for the study. To measure the babies’ reaction to pain; the newborns video-recorded while undergoing a heel stick; a standard procedure that most newborn babies undergo to give blood for screening tests.

Heel-stick procedures

To measure skin conductance, a noninvasive device with three electrodes was applied to one foot. The device measured electrical conductance in the skin; which can change when norepinephrine boosts sweat production. The researchers found that the babies exposed prenatally to opioids had higher skin conductance; reacted more strongly to pain during and after the heel-stick procedures.

Additionally, Oji-Mmuo said the babies who had exposed to opioids continued to stressed; after the procedure was over and they swaddled and tucked in. Even after the painful procedure was over, they continued to have higher skin conductance. Even when the procedure was done and they’d been swaddled, they continued to have these higher measures compared to the babies who had not exposed to opioids.”