Evaluation of neonatal withdrawal syndrome in neonates delivered by women taking psychotropic or anticonvulsant drugs: A retrospective chart review of the effects of multiple medications and breastfeeding

Published:September 23, 2020DOI:


      • Most withdrawal symptoms are mild in neonates of women taking psychotropic drugs.
      • The risk is increased when a mother is administered with multiple drugs.
      • Breastfeeding may be protective against withdrawal symptoms.



      Neonates delivered by women who were taking psychotropic or anticonvulsant drugs during pregnancy are at increased risk of developing neonatal withdrawal syndrome. We investigated the incidence of neonatal withdrawal symptoms and the effects of multiple maternal medications and breastfeeding on neonatal withdrawal symptoms.

      Study Design

      This study examined the overall incidence of neonatal withdrawal symptoms in neonates delivered from 2004 to 2016 by women who were taking oral antipsychotics, antidepressants, anxiolytics, sedatives, or anticonvulsant drugs during pregnancy. Moreover, we compared the incidence of neonatal symptoms between mothers taking single drugs and multiple drugs, and between breastfed and formula-fed neonates. We scored the neonates according to the neonatal withdrawal syndrome checklist created by Isobe et al., which is widely used in Japan.


      We examined 131 mothers and their 134 neonates. Withdrawal symptoms were found in 54.5 % of neonates. Symptoms were found in 32.4 % of neonates delivered by mothers taking single drugs and 62.9 % of neonates delivered by mothers taking two or more drugs (p = 0.0019). One or more withdrawal symptoms developed in 46.4 % of breastfed neonates and 66.1 % of formula-fed neonates (p = 0.034). Five infants had a score of 8 or more points on the withdrawal checklist, which is an indication to consider treatment with pharmacotherapy. All five of these neonates were mainly formula-fed, and their mothers were taking two or more drugs.


      The incidence of withdrawal symptoms was high in neonates delivered by women taking psychotropic or anticonvulsant drugs; however, there were few serious cases. The risk increased when a mother was taking multiple drugs. Breastfeeding appeared to protect against withdrawal symptoms.


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