Fetal Health Risks – Using Opiates Linked to Fetal Health Problems

During pregnancy, many drugs are considered to be off limits by medical professionals because of the effect they may have on the baby. Even if something is mild to the mother, it can carry fetal health risks. Aspirin is one example of this. Recent research now suggests that women who take opiates or prescription pain killers during pregnancy may have a higher risk of their babies suffering birth defects. This includes potentially serious heart afflictions or congenital heart defects, according to a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Fetal Health Risks

This study followed women who were prescribed opiates such as codeine or oxycodone. The women who took them during pregnancy were twice as likely to give birth to babies who suffered fetal health risks, manifesting in congenital heart defects at birth. There are approximately 40,000 newborns showing these types of heart defects each year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Although many different factors could lead to these types of disorders, it’s important for pregnant women to be aware of the potential risks associated with opiates.

Derived from the poppy plant, opiates include such drugs as codeine, morphine, opium, and heroin. Prescription drugs such as oxycodone, Demerol, and Dilaudid may also be offered to pregnant women to help relieve the typical aches and pains of pregnancy, with the potential of fetal health risks. Some other conditions that have been linked in studies to the use of opiates during pregnancy include preeclampsia, premature labor, and intrauterine growth retardation. However, because back or muscle pains can be severe either as a result of pregnancy or linked to other conditions, doctors may still prescribe strong opiate derived painkillers.

In comparison to other types of painkillers, opiates have traditionally been seen as a safer option in terms of fetal health risks. Yet no medication is without risk during pregnancy, so it’s important to speak to a health care professional about all of the possible side effects or ramifications of the prescription. There may be homeopathic pain remedies that can work just as well for some women, including those containing iron or calcium phosphates. These have been shown in some studies to help reduce discomfort or pain associated with pregnancy, and do not carry the same risks to infant health or link with congenital heart problems associated with prescription opiates.

Yet it is up to the discretion of the pregnant woman and her caregiver to determine what is best. Although this study is one of several that link the use of opiates to fetal health risks, being in severe pain is also detrimental to fetal health, so in some cases the use of these prescriptions may be the best option. It’s important to look at all of these factors as well as any natural alternatives before coming to a final conclusion about the type of pain relief that is most suitable during pregnancy.