(HealthDay News) — Opioids are fairly commonly dispensed during pregnancy, with 14.4% of women dispensed an opioid at some point during pregnancy, according to a study published online February 12 in Anesthesiology.

Brian T. Bateman, MD, from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues utilized a research database to define a cohort of 534,500 women with completed pregnancies who were enrolled in a commercial insurance plan from six months before pregnancy through delivery. The prevalence and patterns of opioid use were examined.

The researchers found that at some point during pregnancy, 14.4% of women were dispensed an opioid: 5.7% during the first trimester; 5.7% during the second trimester; and 6.5% during third trimester. Opioid dispensation occurred three or more times during pregnancy for 2.2% of the cohort. Hydrocodone (6.8%), codeine (6.1%), and oxycodone (2.0%) were the most commonly dispensed opioids during pregnancy. During the study period, there was a decrease in the prevalence of opioid exposure at anytime during pregnancy, from 14.9 to 12.9% for pregnancies that delivered in 2005 and 2011, respectively. There was significant regional variation in the prevalence of exposure, which was lowest in the Northeast and highest in the South.

“Given the small and inconsistent body of literature on their safety in pregnancy, these findings suggest a need for research in this area,” the authors write.

Two authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical and health care technology industries.

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