A new study at Vanderbilt University Medical Center shows that pregnant women are commonly being prescribed opioid pain relievers which may increase the likelihood of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) in infants following birth. Study findings were published in Pediatrics

While not all babies exposed to opioids have withdrawal after birth, certain factors may increase an infant’s risk, including the type of opioid and duration of exposure, tobacco use, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor use. Researchers examined three years of data from Tennessee’s Medicaid program and assessed records for 112,029 pregnant mothers. About 28% of women (n=31,354) were prescribed and had filled at least one opioid pain reliever. Among babies with NAS, 65% had mothers that filled prescriptions for opioid pain relievers. 

RELATED: FDA Officials Issue Guidance on Abuse-Deterrent Opioids

Ninety-six percent of women prescribed opioids received short-acting medications, while 2% received maintenance doses and <1% received long-acting opioids. Also, pregnant women who took opioid pain relievers were more likely to be white, have anxiety or depression, or suffer from headache or migraine and have musculoskeletal disease. Financially, every $1 spent on short-acting opioid pain relievers was linked to $50 spent caring for infants with drug withdrawal. Researchers hope that findings from the study will help bring attention to the impact the prescription opioid epidemic can have on both mothers and infants. 

For more information visit Vanderbilt.edu.