Prescription Opioids in Pregnancy and Birth Outcomes: A Review of the Literature

J Pediatr Genet. 2015 Apr 1;4(2):56-70. doi: 10.1055/s-0035-1556740.


Prescription opioids are used prenatally for the management of pain, as well as for opiate dependency. Opioids are known to cross the placenta and despite the evidence of possible adverse effects on fetal development, studies have consistently shown prescription opioids are among the most commonly prescribed medications and the prevalence of use is increasing among pregnant women. This article summarizes the available literature documenting potential harms associated with prescription opioid use during pregnancy, including poor fetal growth, preterm birth, birth defects, and neonatal abstinence syndrome.

Keywords: birth defects; birth weight; fetal growth; neonatal abstinence syndrome; opioids; pregnancy.