According to a study published this week in the Journal of Pediatrics titled “Prescription Opioid Epidemic and Infant Outcomes,” the use of prescription narcotic painkillers during pregnancy increases the risk that a baby will be born small or early, as well as the risk of drug withdrawal known as neonatal abstinence syndrome.
The study included the analysis of medical records for more than 112,000 women in the Tennessee Medicaid program between 2009 and 2011. Of those women, approximately 28% filled a prescription for at least one narcotic painkiller — mostly short acting medications such as hydrocodone or oxycodone. According to the authors, prescription narcotic painkillers are “commonly prescribed in pregnancy.”
Babies born small or early are at greater risk for labor and delivery complications, as well as neonatal complications, including:
- respiratory distress,
- intraventricular hemorrhage,
- inability to maintain body heat,
- gastrointestinal issues,
- patent ductus arteriosus,
- retinopathy of prematurity, and
The study provides healthcare providers, including obstetricians, with important information about the dangers associated with the prescription of narcotics to women for pregnancy-related conditions such as pubic symphysis diastasis. “Studies like this are important to patient safety, because the warnings issued help inform and shape the standard of care,” said Michael A. Bottar, a Syracuse medical malpractice lawyer.
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