Nutritional Status Differs by Prescription Opioid Use among Women of Reproductive Age: NHANES 1999-2018

Nutrients. 2023 Apr 14;15(8):1891. doi: 10.3390/nu15081891.


Prescription opioid use among pregnant women has increased in recent years. Prenatal exposure to opioids and poor nutrition can both negatively impact maternal-fetal outcomes. The objective of this study was to characterize the nutrition and health status of reproductive-age women taking prescription opioids, compared to women not taking opioids. Using NHANES 1999-2018 data, non-pregnant women aged 20-44 years were classified as taking a prescription opioid in the last 30 days (n = 404) or unexposed controls (n = 7234). Differences in anthropometric, cardiovascular, hematologic, and micronutrient status indicators between opioid-exposed and unexposed women were examined. Opioid-exposed women were older, had lower income and education, and were more likely to be non-Hispanic White, to smoke, and to have chronic health conditions compared to unexposed women. In unadjusted analyses, several nutrition and health markers were significantly different between opioid exposure groups. After controlling for covariates, women taking opioids had higher odds of Class II (OR = 1.6, 95% CI = 1.1-2.3) or III obesity (OR = 1.6, 95% CI = 1.1-2.5), and lower levels of serum folate, iron, and transferrin saturation. Reproductive-age women taking prescription opioids may be at risk for poorer nutritional and cardiometabolic health. Future research is needed to explore whether nutritional status impacts maternal-fetal outcomes for women exposed to opioids during pregnancy.

Keywords: NHANES; biomarkers; nutritional status; preconception; prescription opioids; women.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid* / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Nutritional Status
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / drug therapy
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Prescriptions


  • Analgesics, Opioid