Opioid Use During Pregnancy

Startling Statistics About Opioid Use During Pregnancy


As reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opioid use has skyrocketed over the past 10 years. According to a recent estimate, women with “opioid-related diagnoses” at delivery increased 131% from 2010 to 2017. 

In 2019, approximately 7% of women reported using prescription opioids during their pregnancy, and 1 in 5 reported misuses of the prescription. 

What Happens If You Use Opioids During Pregnancy?

Tragically, the health outcomes for both mother and child are grim when there is opioid use during pregnancy.

The CDC notes that opioid use can lead to:

  • Maternal death
  • Poor fetal growth
  • Preterm birth
  • Stillbirth
  • Birth defects
  • Neonatal abstinence syndrome

What Is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)?

Neonatal abstinence syndrome is classified as “a group of conditions that can occur when newborns withdraw from certain substances, including opioids, that they were exposed to before birth.” Withdrawal for a newborn can be painful and difficult. Signs of NAS include tremors, irritability, trouble sleeping, hyperactive reflexes, seizures, vomiting, dehydration, and more.

What Other Health Problems Can Opioid Use During Pregnancy Cause?

Opioid use during pregnancy has a number of significant health problems including those listed above. It is much more likely for fetuses exposed to opioids during pregnancy to be hospitalized longer or have to be readmitted within 30 days of birth. 

While the long-term effects of opioid use during pregnancy are still being studied, it is believed that children exposed to opioid use in utero are more likely to experience developmental delays. Developmental delays related to NAS may include speech and language impairments.

Getting Treatment While Pregnant

If you are taking opioids and are unable to stop, you need to get treatment as soon as possible. It is particularly important to seek treatment if you are pregnant. The effects of opioid use during pregnancy can put you and your baby at risk. There are a number of treatment options for women including those that are or are planning to become pregnant.