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Painkillers in pregnancy could increase the risk of birth defects, CDC report

Posted:  Monday, February 02, 2015

Pregnant mothers who consume prescription painkillers such as codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, or morphine may be increasing the risk of preterm birth or the risk of birth defects in the brain, spine, and heart of their unborn baby. Not just that, these painkillers can cause withdrawal symptoms in the baby after birth, a condition called neonatal abstinence syndrome or NAS.

These findings were cited in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly report (MMWR) published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the report, since half the pregnancies are unplanned, any prescription of opiod-based painkillers in women of childbearing age could harm the developing foetus.

Experts suggest effective birth control measures when using painkillers and consultation with the healthcare practitioner when planning for pregnancy. Healthcare providers, in turn, should inform the patients about the benefits and risks of the prescribed medications. They could suggest safer alternatives to their patients as well.

Talking about the need for awareness on this subject, Coleen A. Boyle, Director of CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) said, “The CDC’s Treating for Two: Safer Medication Use in Pregnancy initiative offers information to women and their healthcare providers about medication use during pregnancy. This initiative aims to prevent birth defects and improve the health of mothers by working to identify the best alternatives for treatment of common conditions during pregnancy and during the childbearing years.”

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