Consequences of prenatal opioid use for newborns

Acta Paediatr. 2015 Nov;104(11):1066-9. doi: 10.1111/apa.13121. Epub 2015 Sep 23.


One-third of childbearing women take prescription opioids, previously occurring only in 6-7% of pregnant women. Prenatal opioid exposures may cause birth defects, altered brain development and neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). NAS incidence increased fourfold and length of stay increased from 13 to 19 days over 10 years (2004-2013), leading to sevenfold increases in NICU days due to NAS. Initial data suggest that recent NAS increases have resulted from increased use of prescription opioids rather than illicit drugs.

Conclusion: Paediatricians will have to manage the consequences of prenatal opioid exposures, as the offspring often have complex medical and social issues associated with these families.

Keywords: Addiction; Epidemiology; Maternal substance abuse; Narcotic; Neonatal abstinence syndrome; Newborn.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome / etiology*
  • Pregnancy


  • Analgesics, Opioid