Narcotics and Your Baby; Not a Good Combo

opioid use during pregnancy

Maksud /Dollar Photo Club

You’re reading the title of this thinking that this is pretty stupid.  Who on Earth would think that this is a good idea??  Opioids during pregnancy.

I’m sure that if I gave you the true / false question, “Morphine is ok to take while pregnant,” there’d be no hesitation to check the “false” box.  And it wouldn’t surprise you at all to know that the use of morphine and morphine derivatives during pregnancy can lead to scary things like withdrawal symptoms into the newborn.  The technical term for this is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NES).

If you agree that it’s absolutely crazy to take opioids during pregnancy, then you will likely be as shocked at the results from this particular study as I was.  In it, researchers looked at the use of opioids during pregnancy to evaluate just how common it was.  Here’s what they found when they looked at group of 112,029 pregnant women:

  • A shocking 28% (31,354) filled at least one opioid prescription during pregnancy.

How is this possible?  There are probably few people out there who would think that opioid use during pregnancy is ok.  I think I may know why; at least in my office.

From what I’ve seen, not enough of the population understand the drugs that they take.  Top culprits are Percocet and Vicodin.  It seems like a good chunk of my patients do not realize that these drugs are opioids.  Sure, most know that OxyContin and Oxycodone contain morphine derivatives.  But a surprising number of my patients over the years have not been aware that common pain medications that are handed out like candy also contain opioids.

So maybe a good chunk of the 31,000+ pregnant women in this study were written a prescription for hydrocodone-containing drugs like Percocet and Vicodin and just didn’t realize it.

Of course, the real question is how they got the prescription in the first place.  The prescribing physician should darn well know that opioids should not be prescribed in pregnant women.

The researchers then looked at what factors played a role in these pregnant women receiving a prescription for an opioid.  Here are the factors they found:

  1. They were more likely to have depression (5.3% vs 2.7%).
  2. Anxiety disorder (4.3% vs 1.6%)
  3. Smokers (41.8% vs 25.8%)

Looking at the list of these 3 factors, I just can’t understand how these patient-related factors should affect whether or not these women got a prescription for an opioid from her physician.

Overall, I don’t really have a take home message.  I’ve provided this article more for educational purposes rather than providing answers because I can’t understand how these prescriptions are written at this frequency.

In my biased opinion, the best and easiest answer to this prescribing problem is chiropractic care during pregnancy for any pain-related complaints instead of these prescriptions.  Maybe the answer is education for these pregnancy-related-opioid-prescribing physicians on the benefits of chiropractic care for pregnant women…??

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.