Prenatal Exposure to Opioids Linked to Health Risks in Children

Mother and infant

A newly published study in JAMA Network Open[i] finds that children exposed to opioids while in the womb more commonly suffer from a number of health conditions, including asthma and eczema.

The Critical Role Opioids Play In Fetal Development

As the paper states: “Opioids play a critical role in fetal development. The use of exogenous opioids during pregnancy has the potential to interfere with these finely regulated physiologic processes, affecting a wide range of body systems, including the immune system…” 

The research team used data from more than 400,000 children in Australia, 1,656 of whom were exposed to opioids prenatally, to explore possible links between opioid use during pregnancy and long-term health problems in children.

Health Conditions Linked to Prenatal Opioid Exposure

They found that children who had been exposed to opioids in the womb had twelve times the average risk of developing eczema and other skin conditions. The researchers also found that the risk of developing asthma was 44% higher in these children.

Interestingly, the effect of opioids was only found among children whose mothers had received opioids in conjunction with treatment for opioid use disorder and not for opioids administered to treat pain.

Implications and Conclusions of the Study

The study authors conclude by underscoring the need to study opioid-induced immune changes during pregnancy and the potential for longer-term health impacts on children.

Call to Action for Those Struggling with Opioid Addiction

If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to opioids, other drugs, or alcohol and need help in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Ohio, Kentucky, or Indiana, the recovery teams at Aware Recovery Care are here to help. And we come to you, regardless of where you live. Our unique in-home treatment model of care gives clients a significantly better chance of recovery than traditional inpatient rehab care. Please get in touch with one of our Recovery Specialists to learn more.