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Opioid Use Linked to Miscarriages in Pregnant Women

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A new National Institutes of Health study suggests that opioid use is linked to miscarriages in pregnant women, as well as deficiencies in fertility prior to conception. The research suggests that even in the planning stages of pregnancy, opioids can create serious problems.

Published on August 18, researchers from Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development detected a link between opioid use and pregnancy loss.

Researchers analyzed existing data from the Effects of Aspirin in Gestation and Reproduction (EAGeR) trial, which investigated low-dose aspirin as a treatment to prevent pregnancy loss. In the EAGeR trial, 1,228 women were observed, and 226 or 18 percent had used opioids while trying to conceive and 33 or five percent of 685 women who became pregnant had used opioids in the early stages of pregnancy. 

Opioid use before conception was linked to a 29 percent lower chance of achieving pregnancy during a given monthly cycle, compared to women who had not used opioids.

“Our findings indicate that women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy should, along with their physicians, consider the potential effects opioids may have on their ability to conceive or sustain a pregnancy,” said Kerry Flannagan, Ph.D., the primary author of the study.

According to the team of researchers, most studies focus solely on daily, regular use of opioids, while few observe people who use opioids periodically.

Among the participants who became pregnant, those who used opioids at the approximate time of conception were 1.5 times as likely to have a miscarriage than women who had not. Women who used opioids during the first four weeks of pregnancy were more than twice as likely to have a miscarriage. In addition, women who used opioids during weeks four through eight of pregnancy were 2.5 times as likely to have a miscarriage.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also warns about the possible negative effects of opioid use disorder during pregnancy.

Meanwhile, a growing body of empirical evidence suggests that cannabis can serve as an opioid replacement for pain (in the planning stages of pregnancy before conception). When opioids present danger to pregnant women even before conception, there are alternatives for pain management when opioids are not critically needed.

Per the results of the aforementioned study, opioids not only affect pregnancy and birth, but they also negatively impact the early stages of fertility.

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