Opioid birth defects – can pain pills cause neonatal abstinence syndrome?

February 26, 2018 – San Diego, CA.  America is the middle of an opioid epidemic, with many factors being looked at by both the medical community and the federal government.  Hundreds of thousands of people are affected by this crisis, people from all walks of life, across all of America.

Most of the recent news is focused on the how and why of this massive drug epidemic.  But today we look at the unintentional victims, those that had no say in the matter. Those who were never went to a doctor for pain relief.  We’re talking about babies being born as opioid addicts, or being born with birth defects.  

If you are reading this article and have had a child born with birth defects from any opioid pain pill medication, we’d like to hear from you.  We are currently investigating medical reports of newborns being born with birth defects from mothers who were on opioid painkillers while pregnant.

Warnings for women on opioid painkillers and risks of birth defects.

A fairly new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds some disturbing trends.  They studied opioid use in women between ages 15 to 44, the peak reproductive ages, and found that more than a third had filed a prescription for some form of opioid pain medication.

The study was looked at by the CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden, who issued this statement:Opioid birth defects pain pills

“Taking opioid medications early in pregnancy can cause birth defects and serious problems for the infant and the mother.”

“Many women of reproductive age are taking these medicines and may not know they are pregnant and therefore may be unknowingly exposing their unborn child.  That’s why it’s critical for health care professionals to take a thorough health assessment before prescribing these medicines to women of reproductive age.”

What are the factors of this use?   The CDC study looked at the reasons and found rates of drug use were higher in Medicaid participants. When they looked at Medicaid data it showed non-Hispanic white women were close to one and half times more likely to get opioid pain medications than black or Hispanic women. This data also follows the trend of concentrations of uses are higher in the South and lower in the Northeast parts of the country.

The CDC states from their findings:

“Many women need to take opioid-containing medications to appropriately manage their health conditions.”  

“However, in some instances safer alternative treatments are available and use of opioids is unnecessary.”


In looking for other data sets related to prescription opioids in pregnancy and birth outcomes, we turned to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

The Abstract reads:

Prescription opioids are used prenatally for the management of pain, as well as for opiate dependency. Opioids are known to cross the placenta and despite the evidence of possible adverse effects on fetal development, studies have consistently shown prescription opioids are among the most commonly prescribed medications and the prevalence of use is increasing among pregnant women. This article summarizes the available literature documenting potential harms associated with prescription opioid use during pregnancy, including poor fetal growth, preterm birth, birth defects, and neonatal abstinence syndrome.

Keywords: opioids, pregnancy, fetal growth, birth weight, birth defects, neonatal abstinence syndrome

What drugs are responsible for opioid birth defects?

We’re also looking at the data from the above source for the answers. Here is the clearest way to understand this data:

…most prescription opioids are currently classified by the Food and Drug Administration under category C for use in pregnancy, indicating evidence of potential harm to the fetus from animal studies and the absence of well-controlled human studies.neonatal abstinence syndrome Opioid painkillers

Despite evidence of adverse effects on fetal development from prescription opioids, studies from both Europe and the United States have consistently documented high rates of prescription opioid use during pregnancy, whether for medical indications or opioid dependency. Data from a population-based registry in Norway showed that 6% of the pregnant women filled at least one opioid prescription between 2004 and 2006.  Results of numerous studies from the United States are more concerning.

Analysis of prescription claims data for women enrolled in Tennessee Medicaid found that 29% of pregnant women filled a prescription for an opioid analgesic from 1995 to 2009.  Similarly, another study using data from Medicaid-enrolled pregnant women from 47 states in the United States reported that 21.6% of the women filled at least one opioid prescription during their pregnancy. An increasing trend was also observed in this study, with the proportion of women filling prescription opioids during pregnancy increasing from 18.5% in 2000 to 22.8% in 2007. Data from pregnant women enrolled in commercial health plans across the United States also showed high rates (14.4%) of prescription opioid dispensing between 2005 and 2011.  Some of the most commonly filled opioid agents reported in these studies were codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and propoxyphene.

What is neonatal abstinence syndrome – Possible from Opioid painkillers?

What is neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is classified as a group of conditions caused by a mother’s use of opioid based painkillers while in the womb. This can be from prescription painkillers or street drugs like heroin.

Neonatal abstinence syndrome may be hard for parents to decipher or may be unsure of this condition.  Some of the common symptoms of Neonatal abstinence syndrome may include:  

  • Infant is Tembling (tremors).
  • Baby shows signs of irritability, or excessive crying.
  • Problems resting or sleeping.
  • Unusually tight muscles


What can you do if you had a baby born with defects from opioid painkillers?

If you or a loved one has had a baby born with any birth defect, addicted or neonatal abstinence syndrome due to an opioid-prescription painkiller or heroin we understand that it’s not your fault.  We here to help and you may qualify for a cash award and substantial financial compensation. Please use the contact form on this page for help.