Use of buprenorphine in pregnancy: patient management and effects on the neonate

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2003 May 21;70(2 Suppl):S87-101. doi: 10.1016/s0376-8716(03)00062-0.


It is estimated that 55-94% of infants born to opioid-dependent mothers in US will show signs of opioid withdrawal. Buprenorphine has been reported to produce little or no autonomic signs or symptoms of opioid withdrawal following abrupt termination in adults. To date, there have been 21 published reports representing approximately 15 evaluable cohorts of infants exposed to buprenorphine in utero. Of approximately 309 infants exposed, a neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) has been reported in 62% infants with 48% requiring treatment; apparently greater than 40% of these cases are confounded by illicit drug use. The NAS associated with buprenorphine generally appears within 12-48 h, peaks at approximately 72-96 h, and lasts for 120-168 h. These results appear similar to or less than that observed following in utero exposure to methadone. From a review of the literature, buprenorphine appears to be safe and effective in both mother and infant with an NAS that may differ from methadone both qualitatively and quantitatively.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Buprenorphine / administration & dosage*
  • Buprenorphine / adverse effects
  • Buprenorphine / pharmacokinetics
  • Disease Management
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Narcotic Antagonists / administration & dosage*
  • Narcotic Antagonists / adverse effects
  • Narcotic Antagonists / pharmacokinetics
  • Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome / metabolism
  • Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome / prevention & control*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / drug therapy
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / drug therapy*
  • Pregnancy Complications / metabolism
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / chemically induced
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / metabolism
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / prevention & control


  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • Buprenorphine