Opioids in Pregnancy: Are They Safe?

by Dr. Simi Paknikar on  July 21, 2014 at 12:53 PM Health In Focus   - G J E 4
Researchers feel that the use of opioid drugs in early pregnancy can cause neural tube defects in the baby. These findings were brought forth in a study headed by Martha M. Werler, a School of Public Health professor of epidemiology and a senior epidemiologist at the Slone Epidemiology Center.
 Opioids in Pregnancy: Are They Safe?
Opioids in Pregnancy: Are They Safe?

We are all aware that medications should be avoided by a pregnant woman as much as possible. This is especially important for those medications that are taken without a prescription. A medication taken by the mother reaches the fetus. Though at times it does not have any effect on the fetus, at other times, it may interfere with the delicate process of fetal development and cause defects.

Opioid narcotics like codeine, hydrocodone and oxycodone are commonly used as painkillers for conditions like back and abdominal pain. Though their use is not absolutely contraindicated during pregnancy, there are some indications that they may cause neural tube defects. This is based on the findings of a study that a high percentage of women with babies with neural tube defects took the drugs during pregnancy. The neural tube is the part that develops into the brain and spinal cord; thus these defects could have serious consequences.

Currently, there is no foolproof evidence that the birth defects have been caused by the opioid drugs. Also, researchers have not been able to postulate a mechanism of how this could be possible. But the fact that there have been cases of birth defects in those babies whose mothers had taken the drugs during pregnancy, it calls for caution while using opioids during pregnancy.

Drugs and Birth Defects

Certain drugs have been implicated to cause congenital anomalies in the fetus. While some of these drugs are absolutely contraindicated because of the extent of anomalies they cause, others can be given under certain conditions when the benefits of the drug far outweigh the risks on the baby. Here are some common drugs associated with deformities in the fetus:

• Some drugs cause multiple and serious birth defects that could also lead to miscarriage and stillbirth. These are vitamin A derivatives like acitretin and etretinate, thalidomide and warfarin.

• Many of the anticonvulsants are associated with neural tube and other defects.

• Tetracyclines affect bone and teeth development



Source: Medindia

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