Key Findings: Public Health Reporting of NAS Offers Opportunities for Treatment and Prevention

Newborn baby boy inside incubator

Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is a withdrawal syndrome that can occur in newborns exposed to certain substances, including opioids, during pregnancy. A new CDC article looked at laws enacted in six states that make health departments or hospitals report all babies born with NAS for public health monitoring. Researchers found that required public health reporting of infants born with NAS enabled states to estimate the number of babies born with NAS. It can also help identify opportunities for treatment and prevention for mothers and babies and plan for needed services.

Read the full scientific article.

Main Findings

  • No national monitoring system currently exists to collect data about NAS in the United States. Researchers identified laws in six states that require public health monitoring of NAS.
  • State officials noted that required reporting of infants born with NAS has helped their state
    • Estimate the number of babies born with NAS in real time.
    • Locate specific areas more severely impacted by NAS to help target resources.
    • Identify mothers and babies affected by opioid use disorder who may benefit from local programs and services.
  • States that require hospitals to report NAS cases may need additional resources and training for healthcare providers and hospital staff. This can help ensure that high-quality information is collected.
  • This report found that states use different criteria and approaches for public health reporting of NAS. States considering implementation of laws requiring NAS case reporting for public health surveillance can benefit from understanding advantages and challenges of the approaches used.

About This Study

  • Researchers used an online legal research database that contains information about state laws. They looked for all states with laws requiring the reporting of “neonatal abstinence syndrome” for public health monitoring.
  • Researchers identified six states with laws that require reporting of “neonatal abstinence syndrome” prior to January 2018. These states include Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia.
    • These six states require medical providers to report all babies with NAS to their respective state health departments.
  • To provide information for the research, state officials filled out a survey and completed a telephone interview to describe their reporting system.
  • Because only six states were included in this report, researchers were unable to make comparisons among all states in the US.

Our Work

CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) is building on existing systems to understand the effects of opioid use during pregnancy on infants. NCBDDD is working with states to gain a more accurate picture of NAS and to better understand how opioids and other substance use during pregnancy might affect the long-term health of children. NCBDDD, in collaboration with other CDC Centers, is also building state and local capacity to use data to understand community needs and identify policy gaps and best practices to reduce maternal opioid use.

More Information

Key Findings Reference

Jilani SM, Frey MT, Pepin D, Jewell T, Jordan M, Miller AM, et al. Evaluation of State-mandated Reporting of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome – Six States, 2013-2017. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2019;68:6–10.

Page last reviewed: January 10, 2019