These findings were published in the August issue of Pharmacology Research & Perspectives.
“When compared with the general population, all the newborns of women who had any indications of opioid abuse before, during or after pregnancy, seem to have worse neonatal outcomes — regardless of whether the woman received opioid maintenance treatment during pregnancy or not,” said Marte Handal, a researcher at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and study author, in a news release.
Opioid maintenance treatment, or OMT, normally consists of methadone or buprenorphine use to curb addiction to illegal opioids. Handal and her colleagues wanted to investigate the effects of this treatment on an unborn child.
For the study, the researchers looked at medical data for 333 newborns in the Czech Republic whose mothers received OMT for opioid addiction and 106 newborns whose mothers did not receive treatment for the same addiction. They also examined data from Norway for 235 OMT-exposed newborns and 294 who were not exposed to the treatment.
The researchers found the length of pregnancy for OMT-exposed women and the comparison group in the Czech Republic were similar. In Norway, however, the average pregnancy was nearly one week longer for women who received OMT compared to the group of who didn’t.
The birth weight, length and head size of the newborn were all alike in both the OBT-exposed newborns and the comparison groups, the researchers say.
The findings for each group suggests OMT isn’t any more harmful to a fetus than going without the treatment.
In addition, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration says methadone treatment during pregnancy won’t cause a baby to become addicted to the drug. They do say, however, it will likely bring on withdrawal symptoms for the newborn.
“Taken together, this might suggest that it is not the OMT drugs themselves that are associated with worse neonatal outcomes, but other factors related to opioid use, such as comorbidity, socio-economic and lifestyle factors,” Handal said.