From 1999 to 2014, opioid use disorder (what we would refer to as addiction) among pregnant women increased by four times, that means there are upwards of 4 times more opioid-addicted women giving birth in the new millennia. From 2008 to 2012, roughly 1 in 3 women of prime reproductive age filled a opioid prescription each year, and 1 of 5 women who reported using opioids during pregnancy did so illicitly (that is, obtained them from an illegal source, or used legal medication for recreation instead of pain therapy).

There are numerous serious health risks for both the mother and their child when the mother uses opioids – even for a short amount of time – during pregnancy. Using painkillers during the intense labor that women endure for the sake of bringing life into this world is no crime, but increasingly doctors and women are being told that regular use of opioid therapy during their pregnancy is no big deal. Again, we must stress that using pain medication during the act of labor is recommended in some cases.

However, opioid use over the course of weeks or months during pregnancy can be extremely dangerous for both mother and child. In fact, opioid use disorder has been linked to increased chances of delivery complications resulting in maternal death; for babies it is linked to poor fetal growth (birth defects of the body and mind), premature and still birth, and neonatal abstinence syndrome (babies born addicted to opioids).

If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, it is best that you first find an alternative pain therapy than whatever opioids you are using. if you are using opioids consistently during pregnancy, it may be better to engage with Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) rather than supervised withdrawal, due to the health risks associated with withdrawal symptoms during pregnancy (premature birth, miscarriage, fetal distress). For more information, please read the full article from the CDC here.