Prenatal Treatment and Outcomes of Women With Opioid Use Disorder

Obstet Gynecol. 2018 Oct;132(4):916-922. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000002881.


Objective: To describe the characteristics, treatment, and outcomes of pregnant women with opioid use disorder.

Methods: Women attending an obstetric and addiction recovery clinic in Boston from 2015 to 2016 were enrolled in a prospective cohort study and followed through delivery (N=113). Buprenorphine or methadone was initiated clinically. The Addiction Severity Index was administered at enrollment. Prenatal and delivery data were systematically abstracted from medical charts.

Results: Most women in the cohort were non-Hispanic white (80.5%) with a mean age of 28 years. Few women were married (8.9%). More than half of the cohort had been incarcerated, 29.2% had current legal involvement, and 15.0% generally had unstable housing. A majority (70.8%) were infected with hepatitis C and histories of sexual (56.6%) and physical (65.5%) abuse were prevalent. Regular substance used included heroin (92.0%), injection heroin (83.2%), other opioids (69.0%), marijuana (73.5%), alcohol (56.6%), and cocaine (62.8%). Fifty-nine women (52.2%) were treated initially with prenatal buprenorphine and 54 (47.8%) with methadone; 49.6% also were taking concomitant psychotropic medications. Employment (0.766±0.289) and psychologic (0.375±0.187) Addiction Severity Index scores were the highest, indicating the most severe problems in these areas. Opioid use relapse did not differ by treatment (44.7% overall). Thirteen (22.5%) of 59 women treated with buprenorphine transitioned to methadone mainly because of positive opioid screens. Overall, 23.0% (n=26) of the cohort discontinued clinical care. The number of pregnancy losses was small (three therapeutic abortions, four miscarriages, one stillbirth), with an overall live birth rate of 90.8% (95% CI 82.7-95.9).

Conclusion: These data on the social circumstances, substance use, treatment, and treatment outcomes of pregnant women with opioid use disorder may help clinicians to understand and treat this clinically complex population.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Buprenorphine / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Methadone / therapeutic use*
  • Opiate Substitution Treatment*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / drug therapy*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Young Adult


  • Buprenorphine
  • Methadone