Many women are unaware that prescription opioid-based medications such as codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, or morphine, used to treat severe pain, may increase the risk for birth defects of the baby's brain, spine, and heart, as well as preterm birth when taken during pregnancy. Use of these medications also can cause babies to suffer withdrawal symptoms when born, a condition known as neonatal abstinence syndrome or NAS.
Since half of all pregnancies are unplanned, women may be prescribed opioid-based pain medications before they or their health care providers know they are pregnant. "This highlights the importance of promoting safer alternative treatments, when available for women of reproductive age. We must do what we can to protect babies from exposure to opioids," stated Coleen A. Boyle, PhD, MSHyg, Director of CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD).
The findings are published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).