Prescription opioid use during pregnancy and risk for preterm birth or term low birthweight

Julia D. Interrante, Stacey L.P. Scroggs, Carol J. Hogue, Jan M. Friedman, Jennita Reefhuis, Michael W. Jann, Cheryl S. Broussard

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objective: Examine the relationship between prescription opioid analgesic use during pregnancy and preterm birth or term low birthweight. Design, setting, and participants: We analyzed data from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, a US multisite, population-based study, for births from 1997 to 2011. We defined exposure as self-reported prescription opioid use between one month before conception and the end of pregnancy, and we dichotomized opioid use duration by ≤7 days and >7 days. Main outcome measures: We examined the association between opioid use and preterm birth (defined as gestational age <37 weeks) and term low birthweight (defined as <2500 g at gestational age ≥37 weeks). Results: Among 10,491 singleton mother/infant pairs, 470 (4.5 percent) reported opioid use. Among women reporting opioid use, 236 (50 percent) used opioids for > 7 days; codeine (170, 36 percent) and hydrocodone (163, 35 percent) were the most commonly reported opioids. Opioid use was associated with slightly increased risk for preterm birth [adjusted odds ratio, 1.4; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.0, 1.9], particularly with hydrocodone [1.6; 1.0, 2.6], meperidine [2.5; 1.2, 5.2], or morphine [3.0; 1.5, 6.1] use for any duration; however, opioid use was not significantly associated with term low birthweight. Conclusions: Preterm birth occurred more frequently among infants of women reporting prescription opioid use during pregnancy. However, we could not determine if these risks relate to the drug or to indications for use. Patients who use opioids during pregnancy should be counseled by their practitioners about this and other potential risks associated with opioid use in pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-225
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Opioid Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Analgesics
  • Infant
  • Low birthweight
  • Opioid
  • Pregnancy
  • Premature birth


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