Pregnancy outcome following opioid exposure: A cohort study

Boris Fishman, Sharon Daniel, Gideon Koren, Eitan Lunenfeld, Amalia Levy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction Opioids constitute a cornerstone of pain relief treatment. However, opioid safety during pregnancy has not been well established. Recent studies reported an association between in utero opioid exposure and spina bifida. Methods In order to further evaluate the association of opioids exposure during pregnancy with adverse pregnancy outcomes, we conducted a large historical cohort by linking four databases: Medications dispensations, births, pregnancy terminations for medical reasons and infant hospitalizations during the years of 1999-2009. Confounders that were controlled for included maternal age, ethnicity, maternal diabetes, smoking status, parity, obesity, year and folic acid intake. A secondary analysis for total major malformations and for spina bifida was performed using propensity score matching for first trimester exposure. Results Of the 101,586 women included in the study, 3003 were dispensed opioids during the first trimester. Intrauterine exposure to opioids was not associated with overall major malformations (adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 0.97, 95% CI 0.83-1.13), cardiovascular malformations (aOR = 0.89, 95% CI 0.70-1.13) other malformations by systems or spina bifida in particular. However, the risk for spina bifida among newborns and abortuses who were exposed to codeine was four times higher than that of the unexposed (aOR = 4.42, 95% CI 1.60- 12.23). This association remained significant in a secondary analysis using propensity score matching. Third trimester exposure to opioids was not associated with low birth weight (aOR = 1.08, 95% CI 0.77-1.52), perinatal death (aOR = 1.38, 95% CI 0.64-2.99) and other adverse pregnancy outcomes. Conclusions These findings suggest that opioids exposure (as a homogenous group) is not a significant risk factor for overall major malformations. Exposure to codeine during the first trimester was found to be associated with increased risk of spina bifida. However, this finding was based on a small number of cases and need to be verified in future work.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0219061
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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