Researchers Reveal Opioid Birth Defects
The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology published a study by CDC researchers linking taking codeine, hydrocodone, or other opioid painkillers shortly before or early in pregnancy increases the risk of congenital heart defects and other opioid birth defects. As the rate of opioids use increases, the rate of birth defects from the painkillers is rising as well.
Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug known as heroin, and synthetic prescription drugs including fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, or methadone (drugs with common names such as Vicodin, Percocet, and OxyContin). Prescription opioids are medications that are chemically similar to endorphins and interact with opioid receptors in the body and brain. Endorphins are opioids our body makes naturally to relieve pain. In nature, opioids are in the seed pod of the opium poppy plant. Opioid medications can be natural or synthetic.
For most people, when taking medically prescribed opioids for a short time, they are relatively safe and can reduce pain effectively. However, dependence and addiction are still potential risks when taking prescription opioids. The longer you use these medications, the higher your chance of developing addiction symptoms.
Opioid Birth Defects
The researchers used from an ongoing National Birth Defects Prevention Study. The study focused on the years 1997 to 2005. Researchers analyzed 17,449 interviews conducted with mothers of infants with birth defects. In the interviews, the mothers discussed the medications they took during their pregnancy and the three months before becoming pregnant. Then, researchers compared their answers with 6,701 mothers of babies born without defects.
Almost 3% of mothers reported using prescription opioids and having a baby with a birth defect. This is double the amount of mothers not using these painkillers. The study participants reported codeine and hydrocodone as the most common medications used. However, the study did not ask mothers about the use of illicit opioids.
Risk of Heart Defects
Researchers found that the most common of the opioid birth defects are several different types of heart defects. Opioids doubled the chances of having a baby born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Another is Tetralogy of Fallot is a heart defect that presents with some or all of the following defects in the infant’s heart: Overriding Aorta, Pulmonary Stenosis, Ventricular Septal Defect and Right Ventricle Hypertrophy. Any of the defects associated with Tetralogy of Fallot can result in infant death or the need for multiple cardiac surgeries and a permeant decrease in quality of life.
Other opioid birth defects include spina bifida, congenital glaucoma, and hydrocephaly.
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