Maternal Opioid Use Tied to Higher Birth Defect Risk

Opioid analgesic use just prior to or during early pregnancy may up risk of certain defects

WEDNESDAY, March 2 (HealthDay News) -- Maternal use of opioid analgesics just prior to or during early pregnancy is associated with a modestly higher risk of certain birth defects, according to a study published online Feb. 24 in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Cheryl S. Broussard, Ph.D., of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues evaluated whether maternal opioid treatment between one month before pregnancy and the first trimester was associated with birth defects. They used data from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study (1997 to 2005).

The investigators found that opioid use was reported by 2.6 percent of 17,449 case mothers and 2.0 percent of 6,701 control mothers. Maternal opioid treatment was statistically significantly associated with conoventricular septal defects (odds ratio [OR], 2.7), atrioventricular septal defects (OR, 2.0), hypoplastic left heart syndrome (OR, 2.4), spina bifida (OR, 2.0), or gastroschisis (OR, 1.8) in infants.

"It's important to acknowledge that although there is an increased risk for some types of major birth defects from an exposure to opioid analgesics, that absolute risk for any individual woman is relatively modest," Broussard said in a statement. "However, with very serious and life threatening birth defects like hypoplastic left heart syndrome, the prevention of even a small number of cases is very important."

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