Although there is no sufficient data to prove that the use of opioids during pregnancy is harmless, recent research shows that approximately one in seven pregnant women receives this kind of drugs as a painkiller.

The consequences of opioid use during pregnancy haven’t been studied enough, but the drugs are dispensed to about 14 per cent of pregnant women, according to a new study.
The study, which first appeared at Anesthesiology web-page on February 12, 2014, found out the extensive prescription of opioids to a large proportion of women who gave birth in the period of 2005 to 2011. The authors of the study searched through an anonymized database holding data on people who received health insurance across the USA, studied the type of opioids provided to women before their pregnancy, during the total pregnancy period and during individual trimesters, and assessed the resulting duration of exposure proceeding from pharmacy dispensing records for such drugs as oxycodone, codeine, hydrocodone, propoxyphene, etc.
Opiods were dispensed to 76,742 (14.4 per cent) women out of the 534,500 at some point of their pregnancy period: 5.7 per cent took opiods during the 1st trimester, 5.7 percent took them during the 2nd trimester, and 6.5 per cent took them during the 3rd trimester. As a rule the drugs were taken for a short time, however, 2.2 per cent of pregnant women were prescribed and supplied opioids three or more times.
Hydrocodone-based painkillers were dispensed most often out of those in the study and were taken by 6.8 per cent of women, codeine-based drugs (6.1 per cent) were the second most frequently prescribed opioids, followed by oxycodone-based (2 per cent) and propoxyphene-based (1.6 per cent). 37 per cent of all pregnant women taking the painkillers and 61% of pregnant women who received the painkillers 3 or more times, had the opioids prescribed for back pain.
The study also showed that the use of opioids slightly decreased during the research period. Opioid painkilllers were dispensed to 12.9 per cent of women who gave birth in 2011, which means a decline by 2 per cent compared to 2005. Besides, opioid use was quite different across the country, being the widest in the southern States and the least common in the northeastern ones.
Prolonged use of opioid painkillers during pregnancy period has been suspected of creating a risk of opioid dependence for newborns. However, the studies related to the consequences of short-term use haven’t provided coherent results. Other medication for pain, e.g. non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, was also believed to have harmful consequences if taken during pregnancy, which calls for a more thorough research on the advantages and dangers of these medications for pregnant women. The authors of the study hope that such a comparative research would result in improvement of the treatment guidelines and medical practices.