Opioid dependency in pregnancy and length of stay for neonatal abstinence syndrome

J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2012 Mar;41(2):180-190. doi: 10.1111/j.1552-6909.2011.01330.x. Epub 2012 Feb 29.


Objective: To examine opioid replacement therapy in pregnancy and effect on neonatal outcomes, including length of hospital stay for neonatal abstinence syndrome.

Design: Retrospective descriptive study.

Setting: Labor and delivery unit and neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), Eastern Maine Medical Center, Bangor, Maine.

Participants: One hundred fifty-two opioid-dependent pregnant women on methadone maintenance therapy (MMT) (n = 136) or buprenorphine maintenance therapy (BMT) (n = 16) during pregnancy and their neonates. The neonates were born between January 1, 2005 and December 31, 2007.

Methods: A review of the electronic medical record (EMR) was conducted of all opioid-dependent women who were maintained on MMT or BMT at the time of admission for labor and delivery and their neonates.

Results: Maternal methadone dose and concomitant in-utero exposure to benzodiazepines prolonged the length of hospital stay for neonates. Length of stay was shorter in breastfed neonates than formula-fed neonates or neonates who received formula and breast milk. Neonates with prenatal exposure to MMT spent more days in the hospital (21 vs. 14 days) for treatment of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) than infants with prenatal exposure to BMT.

Conclusion: These findings are consistent with previous research on the simultaneous use of methadone and benzodiazepines during pregnancy and provide further direction for the treatment of opioid dependency during pregnancy. Harm reduction strategies for opioid-dependent pregnant women in substance abuse treatment with MMT may one day include guidance on daily treatment doses and recommendations to avoid the concomitant use of benzodiazepines to lessen NAS. Breastfeeding should be recommended to shorten length of stay. Understanding perinatal and neonatal outcomes of pregnant women on methadone or buprenorphine will help to identify optimal treatment for opioid dependency in pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Buprenorphine / administration & dosage*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Length of Stay
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Methadone / administration & dosage*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Opiate Substitution Treatment / methods
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / diagnosis
  • Pregnancy Complications / drug therapy*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Buprenorphine
  • Methadone