A study shows the use of opioid pain relievers during pregnancy may increase the risk of neonatal abstinence syndrome in infants following birth.

While not all babies exposed to opioids have withdrawal after birth, certain factors may increase an infant’s risk, including the type of opioid and duration of exposure, tobacco use, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor use. Researchers examined three years of data from Tennessee’s Medicaid program and assessed records for 112,029 pregnant mothers. About 28% of women (n=31,354) were prescribed and had filled at least one opioid pain reliever. Among babies with NAS, 65% had mothers that filled prescriptions for opioid pain relievers.

Ninety-six percent of women prescribed opioids received short-acting medications, while 2% received maintenance doses and <1% received long-acting opioids. Also, pregnant women who took opioid pain relievers were more likely to be white, have anxiety or depression, or suffer from headache or migraine and have musculoskeletal disease.

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