Study examines relation of opioid use to pregnancy loss, conception

August 20, 2020

A new study released by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) indicates that opioid use in women may result in higher chances of pregnancy loss and lower chances of conceiving.

Researchers analyzed data from the Effects of Aspirin in Gestation and Reproduction (EAGeR) trial, which investigated low-dose aspirin as a treatment to prevent pregnancy loss, according to NIH. Participants were women from 18 to 40 years old with a history of one or two pregnancy losses.

Women were followed for 6 monthly cycles if they did not get pregnant and throughout pregnancy if they did. The women provided urine samples, which were analyzed for various prescription opioids, according to the NIH press release.

There were 1,228 women in the study, of which 18%, or 226, had used opioids while trying to conceive. Of the 685 women who became pregnant, 5% (33) used opioids in early pregnancy. Of these women, none tested positive for two drugs typically used to treat opioid dependence, methadone or buprenorphine, according to NIH.

Opioid use prior to conception was associated with a 29% lower chance of becoming pregnant when compared with women who had not used opioids. For the women who did achieve pregnancy, the chances of miscarrying were 1.5 times higher if there was opioid use around the time of conception.

If women used opioids in the first 4 weeks of pregnancy, the chance of miscarriage more than doubled. If opioids were used in weeks 4 through 8 of pregnancy, those women were 2.5 times more likely to miscarry.

Kerry Flannagan, Ph.D., was the study’s primary author. Dr. Flannagan is a postdoctoral researcher in the Division of Intramural Population Health Research at NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

“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,” Dr. Flannagan said in the press release.

The authors have cautioned that more research is needed into the effect of opioid use on pregnancy and fertility. Find the full press release here.