Alarming Find: Opioid Use During Pregnancy on Rise
Prescriptions for strong painkillers surge despite unknown risks
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted Apr 14, 2014 3:10 AM CDT
Updated Apr 14, 2014 7:46 AM CDT

(Newser) – The risks of taking opioid painkillers during pregnancy aren't fully understood but that hasn't stopped doctors prescribing them for large numbers of pregnant women, an alarming new study in Obstetrics and Gynecology finds. Some 23% of Medicaid-enrolled pregnant women were prescribed opioids like codeine and hydrocodone in 2007, up from 18.5% in 2000, researchers say. An earlier study found that more than 12% of privately insured women were prescribed the strong painkillers every year between 2005 and 2011, despite emerging concerns about risks—including an apparent link between neural tube defects and opioid use in the first trimester.

The rate of opioid prescription varied hugely, with rates highest in the South and mountain states like Utah and lowest in the Northeast. "The regional variation really concerned me the most," a professor of pain medicine at Stanford University tells the New York Times. "It's hard to imagine that pregnant women in the South have all that much more pain than pregnant women in the Northeast." It's not clear what's behind the spike in the use of opioids and other prescription painkillers among pregnant women, though experts believe the rise in obesity has caused a rise in back problems during pregnancy.

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Showing 3 of 14 comments
Apr 17, 2014 2:04 PM CDT
all experts care about is the money- they don't care if opioids cause neural tube defects or infants in withdrawal from opioids- experts are cruel immoral you know whats.
Apr 15, 2014 2:37 PM CDT
seems like a very incomplete study first medicaid patients which has increased patient load even before the expansion which has the records most available to study. no effort to compare the type of patients who might have other disease,.the removal of darvocet in 2010 and the fda recommendation to doctors to prescribe the much stronger drug. older women are having children and it is harder the older a person gets. as long as the doctors are carefully mentoring the patients it might not be a real problem. to much lately all someone sees is x and there y and z that needs to be seen. the majority of people with cronic or severe pain do not get addicted
Apr 15, 2014 12:01 AM CDT
I took an opiate for extreme pain while pregnant with my 3rd daughter. I only took it at night, just to help me sleep. She was not born addicted and I am not an addict. I had symphasis pubis dysfunction and it was debilitating. I am not nor have I ever been on any government assistance including medicaid. Some over the counter pain medications are very dangerous for use during pregnancy. Ibuprofen can kill a baby even in small amounts. A mild opiate was my best option. Codeine is relatively safe in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters.