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Opioids During Pregnancy May Not Raise Psychiatric Risks for Offspring
  • Posted April 25, 2024

Opioids During Pregnancy May Not Raise Psychiatric Risks for Offspring

Prescription opioids taken during pregnancy are not associated with a substantial increase in risk of developmental disorders like ADHD in children, a new study has found.

“A slightly increased risk of neuropsychiatric disorders was found, but this should not be considered clinically meaningful” because it was limited to mothers taking more than one opioid, prescribed high doses and using the drugs over longer periods of time, concluded the research team led by Dong Keon Yon, a professor of pediatrics with Kyung Hee University College of Medicine in Seoul, South Korea.

About 7% of women in the United States are prescribed opioids during pregnancy, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Previous studies have had mixed findings regarding opioid use during pregnancy and various health outcomes in children, mainly due to small sample sizes and short follow-up periods.

To produce a high-powered examination of the potential problem, researchers analyzed health data for more than 3.1 million infants born in South Korea between 2010 and 2017 to nearly 2.3 million mothers.

Moms were grouped according to the dose, duration and frequency of opioid prescriptions during their pregnancy, and babies were followed an average of six years after birth.

About 7% of infants were exposed to opioids during pregnancy, researchers found.

The team found a small, but clinically insignificant, increased risk for developmental disorders among babies exposed to opioids in the womb.

Exposure to prescription opioids during the first trimester, at higher doses, and for two or more months was associated with a slightly increased risk of mood disorders, ADHD and intellectual disability, researchers said.

However, they also found no significant association when comparing kids exposed to opioids with siblings who weren't, results show.

The findings were published April 24 in the BMJ.

“These results support cautious opioid prescribing for relief of pain during pregnancy, highlighting the importance of further research for more definitive guidelines,” the team said in a journal news release.

More research is needed, given that opioids are valuable for managing severe pain in some expecting moms, researchers concluded.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on opioid use during pregnancy.

SOURCE: BMJ, news release, April 24, 2024 

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