Every year approximately 100,000 babies are born in Virginia, and about 10,000 of them are substance exposed.  After birth, those children suffer from withdrawal— called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS).  NAS can happen with a variety of drugs, including some prescription painkillers.  Prenatal exposure to certain substances has the potential to cause a wide spectrum of physical, emotional, and developmental problems for these infants, not just NAS.  In response, the 2017 Virginia General Assembly passed a resolution when they met early this year declaring that the first week in July will be considered Substance Exposed Infant (SEI) Awareness Week.

Almost all drugs are known to cross the placenta and have some effect on infants.  If the exposure is not detected and the effects are not treated as soon as possible, the harm caused to the child can be significant and long-lasting.  Many substances can cause certain behavioral outcomes such as impulsivity, short attention span, and hyperactivity; as well as impaired cognition, like poorer memory, analytical skills, and lower IQ.  In addition, poor language development in early childhood, and overall level of achievement have also been linked to substance exposed infants.

If you are pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, do not use alcohol, tobacco, or substances of abuse.  Seek prenatal care, and talk to your provider about the safe and appropriate use of your prescriptions, or over the counter medication.  If you are struggling with substances, please call our adult services at (540) 434-1941.  Pregnant women who are using substances are given priority, and help is provided within 48 hours of the request.

If you are concerned regarding your infant’s development, services are available through the Infant and Toddler Connection of Virginia.  There is no cost for eligibility determination.  For more information please visit the Infant and Toddler Connection of Virginia website or call the McNulty Center for Children and Families at 540.433.7144.

Brandy Haden
M.Ed., Behavioral Health and Wellness Coordinator 
Harrisonburg-Rockingham Community Services Board