Prenatal opioid exposure could bring long-term harm to children, study says

Prenatal Risk Factors and Perinatal and Postnatal Outcomes Associated With Maternal Opioid Exposure in an Urban, Low-Income, Multiethnic US Population

According to a new study, children exposed to opioids in the womb may have heightened risks of long-term mental and physical health issues, medicalxpress reports.

Key Points

Question
What are the prenatal risk factors and perinatal and postnatal outcomes associated with maternal opioid use during pregnancy?

Findings
In this cohort study based on data from 8509 mother-child pairs in the Boston Birth Cohort, in utero opioid exposure was significantly associated with higher risks of fetal growth restriction, preterm birth, lack of expected physiological development, childhood conduct disorder or emotional disturbance in preschool-aged children, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in school-aged children.

Meaning
Prenatal opioid exposure was associated with higher risks of adverse perinatal and postnatal physical health and neurodevelopmental outcomes, suggesting that efforts to mitigate the health consequences of the opioid epidemic require more intergenerational research.

2019 Study Abstract

Importance
The opioid epidemic increasingly affects pregnant women and developing fetuses, resulting in high rates of neonatal abstinence syndrome. However, longitudinal studies that prospectively observe newborns with neonatal abstinence syndrome or with maternal opioid use and examine their long-term physical and neurodevelopmental outcomes are lacking.

Objective
To examine prenatal risk factors associated with maternal opioid use during pregnancy and the short-term and long-term health consequences on their children.

Design, Setting, and Participants
This cohort study analyzed data from the Boston Birth Cohort, an urban, low-income, multiethnic cohort that enrolled mother-newborn pairs at birth at Boston Medical Center (Boston, Massachusetts) starting in 1998, and a subset of children were prospectively observed at Boston Medical Center pediatric primary care and subspecialty clinics from birth to age 21 years. Data analysis began in June 2018 and was completed in May 2019.

Exposures
In utero opioid exposure was defined as maternal self-reported opioid use and/or clinical diagnosis of neonatal abstinence syndrome.

Main Outcomes and Measures
Pregnancy outcomes, postnatal child physical health, and major neurodevelopmental disabilities, documented in maternal and child medical records.

Results
This study included 8509 Boston Birth Cohort mother-newborn pairs for prenatal and perinatal analyses. Of those, 3153 children continued to receive pediatric care at Boston Medical Center and were included in assessing postnatal outcomes. Overall, 454 of the 8509 children (5.3%) in the Boston Birth Cohort had in utero opioid exposure. At birth, opioid exposure was associated with higher risks of fetal growth restriction (odds ratio [OR], 1.87; 95% CI, 1.41-2.47) and preterm birth (OR, 1.49; 95% CI, 1.19-1.86). Opioid exposure was associated with increased risks of lack of expected physiological development (OR, 1.80; 95% CI, 1.17-2.79) and conduct disorder/emotional disturbance (OR, 2.13; 95% CI, 1.20-3.77) among preschool-aged children. In school-aged children, opioid exposure was associated with a higher risk of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (OR, 2.55; 95% CI, 1.42-4.57).

Conclusions and Relevance
In this sample of urban, high-risk, low-income mother-child pairs, in utero opioid exposure was significantly associated with adverse short-term and long-term outcomes across developmental stages, including higher rates of physical and neurodevelopmental disorders in affected children. Efforts to prevent the opioid epidemic and mitigate its health consequences would benefit from more intergenerational research.

Author: DES Daughter

Activist, blogger and social media addict committed to shedding light on a global health scandal and dedicated to raise DES awareness.

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