Male Sex Associated With Increased Risk of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

M. Katherine Charles, William O. Cooper, Lauren M. Jansson, Judith Dudley, James C. Slaughter, Stephen W. Patrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is a postnatal opioid withdrawal syndrome. Factors associated with development of the syndrome are poorly understood; however, infant sex may influence the risk of NAS. Our objective was to determine if infant sex was associated with the development or severity of the syndrome in a large population-based cohort.

METHODS: This retrospective cohort study used vital statistics and prescription, outpatient, and inpatient administrative data for mothers and infants enrolled in the Tennessee Medicaid program between 2009 and 2011. Multivariable logistic regression models were used to evaluate the association between male sex and diagnosis of NAS, accounting for potential demographic and clinical confounders. NAS severity, as evidenced by hospital length of stay, was modeled by using negative binomial regression.

RESULTS: Of 102 695 infants, 927 infants were diagnosed with NAS (484 male subjects and 443 female subjects). Adjustments were made for the following: maternal age, race, and education; maternal hepatitis C infection, anxiety, or depression; in utero exposure to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and cigarettes; infant birth weight, small for gestational age, and year; and the interaction between opioid type and opioid amount. Male infants were more likely than female infants to be diagnosed with NAS (adjusted odds ratio, 1.18 [95% confidence interval, 1.05-1.33]) and NAS requiring treatment (adjusted odds ratio, 1.24 [95% confidence interval, 1.04-1.47]). However, there was no sex-based difference in severity for those diagnosed with NAS.

CONCLUSIONS: Treatment of NAS should be tailored to an infant's individual risk for the syndrome. Clinicians should be mindful that male sex is an important risk factor in the diagnosis of NAS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)328-334
Number of pages7
JournalHospital Pediatrics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Pediatrics


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