DHHR releases data on withdrawal syndrome for infants after mothers give birth

Lincoln County has the highest rate of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome live births at 10.66 percent, or 106.6 cases per 1,000 births. (MGN Online)

Data shows an average of 50.6 of every 1,000 live births in West Virginia has a withdrawal syndrome that occurs after mothers using drugs discontinue suddenly after giving birth.

The data on Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome was released Wednesday by the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

Data shows Kanawha County has 3.94 percent of NAS births, according to a news release. Lincoln County has the highest rate at 10.66 percent, or 106.6 cases per 1,000 births. Marshall County had the second highest with 102.1 cases per 1,000 or 10.21 percent.

Pleasants and Pendleton counties had no infants with NAS while all other West Virginia counties had at least one documented case. Data can be viewed at

The data released was compiled by DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health, Office of Maternal Child and Family Health, with support from West Virginia University’s Department of Pediatrics Birth Score Office. The data gives insight to 27 counties, with the remaining county-level data suppressed due to low occurrence of NAS and the need to protect confidentiality for those families, the release said.

Infants who have NAS require longer stays at the hospital for treatment and monitoring. Symptoms of NAS include tremors, feeding difficulties, excessive crying and sensitivity to stimuli. Infants may need small doses of morphine or methadone to manage the symptoms and be weaned off under medical professional supervision.

“West Virginia is one of a few states that collects NAS surveillance data and is serving as a model for other states across the nation,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, state health officer and commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health, in the news release. “By releasing county data, we will be able to understand the impact of NAS at the local level and establish baseline data for program planning and management.”

DHHR has secured a first of its kind approval for the treatment of NAS through Medicaid. DHHR also has worked with the West Virginia Legislature to secure funding for Drug Free Moms and Babies, services for the families of children born with NAS, and prevention-based contraceptive strategies for men and women with substance use disorder, according to the release.

“West Virginia is in the midst of a child welfare crisis and the prevalence of NAS is at the forefront of our issues,” said Bill Crouch, DHHR cabinet secretary. “We have seen a 46 percent increase in the number of children we take into custody and 84 percent of all child protective service cases involve drug use. Children across our state have suffered more than anyone because of the drug epidemic and these NAS numbers quantify this tragedy.”

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