Increasing pregnancy-related use of prescribed opioid analgesics

Ann Epidemiol. 2013 Aug;23(8):498-503. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2013.05.017.


Purpose: To quantify the prevalence of prescribed opioid analgesics among pregnant women enrolled in Tennessee Medicaid from 1995 to 2009.

Methods: Retrospective cohort study of 277,555 pregnancies identified from birth and fetal death certificates, and linked to previously validated, computerized pharmacy records. Poisson regression was used to estimate trends over time, rate ratios, and 95% confidence intervals (CI).

Results: During the study period, 29% of pregnant women filled a prescription for an opioid analgesic. From 1995 to 2009, any pregnancy-related use increased 1.90-fold (95% CI, 1.83-1.98), first trimester use increased 2.27-fold (95% CI, 2.14-2.41), and second or third trimester use increased 2.02-fold (95% CI, 1.93-2.12), after adjusting for maternal characteristics. Any pregnancy-related, first trimester, and second or third trimester use were each more likely among mothers who were at least 21 years old, white, non-Hispanic, prima gravid, resided in nonurban areas, enrolled in Medicaid owing to disability, and who had less than a high school education.

Conclusions: Opioid analgesic use by Tennessee Medicaid-insured pregnant women increased nearly 2-fold from 1995 to 2009. Additional study is warranted to understand the implications of this increased use.

Keywords: Opioids; Pregnancy; Prescription.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Medicaid
  • Medical Records
  • Poisson Distribution
  • Pregnancy
  • Prescription Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tennessee
  • United States
  • Young Adult


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Prescription Drugs