Opioids during pregnancy linked to more babies born with intestines outside body
According to research published in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the prevalence of gastroschisis has increased over the years. Cases of more babies born with gastroschisis or intestines outside body have been increasingly observed in areas with high and medium versus low opioid prescription rates.
Prevalence of gastroschisis, a serious birth defect of the abdominal wall resulting in some of the abdominal contents extending outside the body at birth, has been increasing worldwide. Gastroschisis requires surgical repair after birth and is associated with digestive and feeding complications during infancy, which can affect development. Possible causes for the increase in gastroschisis prevalence reported both in the United States and worldwide are not well understood. In the ecologic analysis, gastroschisis prevalence was higher in areas with high and medium opioid prescription rates, compared with that in areas with a low rate.
Researcher from the CDC in Atlanta, and colleagues pooled data from 20 population-based state surveillance programs and examined age-specific gastroschisis prevalence from 2006 to 2010 and 2011 to 2015. The data of annual gastroschisis prevalence was compared by annual opioid prescription rate categories using an ecologic approach.
They found that the prevalence of gastroschisis increased 10 percent from 2006-2010 to 2011-2015 and the prevalence was highest among mothers aged <20 years. Compared with areas with low opioid prescription rates, the prevalence of gastroschisis was 1.6 times higher in counties with high opioid prescription rates and 1.4 times higher in counties with medium opioid prescription rates. Within maternal age strata, higher gastroschisis PRs for high versus low opioid prescription rates were observed among mothers aged >25 years.
"Given that the majority of infants with gastroschisis are born to mothers aged <25 years, continued research is needed to focus on possible causal factors in the unique association between young maternal age and gastroschisis," the authors write. "The findings from the ecologic analysis can be used to prioritize basic science, public health, and clinical research on opioid exposure during pregnancy and its potential impact on birth defects."