A photo of Stephanie Merhar.

Stephanie L. Merhar, MD, MS

  • Attending Neonatologist, Perinatal Institute, Neonatology and Pulmonary Biology
  • Research Director, NICU Follow Up Clinic
  • Principal Investigator, Cincinnati site, NICHD Neonatal Research Network
  • Associate Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics
In my practice, I listen carefully to families. I know that I don't have all of the answers and that parents know their child best.



Since I was 12 years old, I knew that I wanted to be a pediatrician. What could be better than being a doctor who gets to work with kids? During my pediatric residency at Cincinnati Children’s, I was drawn to neonatology because it offered me the opportunity to care for acutely ill babies and build long-term relationships with families through the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) follow-up clinic.

As a neonatologist who cares for sick and preterm babies, I have a special interest in babies with brain injury and those exposed to substances such as opioids.

In my practice, I listen carefully to families. I know that I don't have all of the answers and that parents know their child best. In the NICU and our follow-up clinic, we collaborate with families and other care providers, such as neurologists, pulmonologists, therapists, nutritionists and nurses.

The research I do focuses on how the newborn brain can bounce back from insults including brain injury and substance exposure. I am also interested in using MRI as a tool to predict and improve the outcomes of term and preterm babies with brain injury. I am honored every time someone is interested in the research my team is doing.

MD: University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, 2005.

Residency: Pediatrics, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, 2005-2008.

Fellowship: Neonatology, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, 2008-2011.

Certification: Pediatrics, 2008.


Infants with perinatal brain injury; neonatal follow up.

Services and Specialties

Newborn Intensive Care NICU, Perinatal, Fetal Care, Neonatology


Follow-up outcomes; advanced neuroimaging to predict outcomes in infants with brain injury and prenatal substance exposure

Research Areas


Additional Languages


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The Influence of Mediators on the Relationship Between Antenatal Opioid Agonist Exposure and the Severity of Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome. Devlin, LA; Hu, Z; Ounpraseuth, S; Simon, AE; Annett, RD; Das, A; Fuller, JF; Higgins, RD; Merhar, SL; Smith, PB; et al. Maternal and Child Health Journal. 2023.

MRI Findings in Third-Trimester Opioid-Exposed Fetuses, With Focus on Brain Measurements: A Prospective Multicenter Case-Control Study. Nagaraj, UD; Kline-Fath, BM; Zhang, B; Vannest, JJ; Ou, X; Lin, W; Acheson, A; Grewen, K; Grant, PE; Merhar, SL. American Journal of Roentgenology. 2023; 220:418-427.

Psychometric Properties of the Prenatal Opioid Use Perceived Stigma Scale and Its Use in Prenatal Care. Bann, CM; Newman, JE; Okoniewski, KC; Clarke, L; Wilson-Costello, D; Merhar, S; Mack, N; DeMauro, S; Lorch, S; Ambalavanan, N; et al. JOGNN - Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing. 2023; 52:150-158.

Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome: An Update on Developmental Outcomes. Benninger, KL; McAllister, JM; Merhar, SL. Clinics in Perinatology. 2023; 50:17-29.

Trends in Screen Time Use Among Children During the COVID-19 Pandemic, July 2019 Through August 2021. Hedderson, MM; Bekelman, TA; Li, M; Knapp, EA; Palmore, M; Dong, Y; Elliott, AJ; Friedman, C; Galarce, M; Gilbert-Diamond, D; et al. JAMA Network Open. 2023; 6.

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children's sleep habits: an ECHO study. Lucchini, M; Bekelman, TA; Li, M; Knapp, EA; Dong, Y; Ballard, S; Deoni, S; Dunlop, AL; Elliott, AJ; Ferrara, A; et al. Pediatric Research. 2023; 93:586-594.

Associations Between Infant Sleep and Postpartum Maternal-Infant Bonding Among Mothers with Opioid Use Disorder. Xu, JH; Merhar, S; DeFranco, EA; McAllister, J; Nidey, N. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2023; 228:s154-s155.

Associations of Neighborhood Opportunity and Social Vulnerability With Trajectories of Childhood Body Mass Index and Obesity Among US Children. Aris, IM; Perng, W; Dabelea, D; Padula, AM; Alshawabkeh, A; Vélez-Vega, CM; Aschner, JL; Camargo, CA; Sussman, TJ; Dunlop, AL; et al. JAMA Network Open. 2022; 5.

Incidence of and Neurodevelopmental Outcomes After Late-Onset Meningitis Among Children Born Extremely Preterm. Brumbaugh, JE; Bell, EF; Do, BT; Greenberg, RG; Stoll, BJ; DeMauro, SB; Harmon, HM; Hintz, SR; Das, A; Puopolo, KM; et al. JAMA Network Open. 2022; 5.

Eating, Sleeping, Consoling for Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal (ESC-NOW): a Function-Based Assessment and Management Approach study protocol for a multi-center, stepped-wedge randomized controlled trial. Young, LW; Ounpraseuth, S; Merhar, SL; Simon, AE; Das, A; Greenberg, RG; Higgins, RD; Lee, J; Poindexter, BB; Smith, PB; et al. Trials. 2022; 23.

From the Blog

$8M Grant Funds Long-Term Opioid Exposure Study

$8M Grant Funds Long-Term Opioid Exposure Study

Stephanie L. Merhar, MD, MS10/6/2021

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