According to the most recent estimates from the CDC, the number of women opioid-related diagnoses documented at the time of delivery has more than doubled from 2010 to 2017. According to 2019 self-reported data, about 7% of women reported use of prescription opioid pain relievers during pregnancy. Of those, 1 in 5 reported misuse of prescription opioids.
The negative consequences of prenatal opioid use in pregnancy, both for mother and infant, are considerable and constitute a public health crisis. Maternal opioid use may lead to increased risk of complications for newborns including premature birth, feeding difficulties, autonomic instability, neurologic impairment, respiratory distress, and prolonged stays in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The risk of complications is further increased by the fact that about 50% of women who abuse opioids use other drugs or alcohol during pregnancy. This population is also more likely to be exposed to other factors which may also negatively affect pregnancy and neonatal outcomes, including financial adversity, food and housing insecurity, intimate partner violence, and increased rates of trauma and psychiatric illness.
In a comprehensive review (FULL TEXT available), Corsi and Murphy review the effects of maternal opioid use on fertility, pregnancy, neonatal outcomes, breastfeeding, and developmental outcomes in older children.
Corsi DJ, Murphy MSQ. The Effects of opioids on female fertility, pregnancy and the breastfeeding mother-infant dyad: A Review. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2021 May; 128(5):635-641.