Characteristics of Individuals in the United States Who Used Opioids during Pregnancy

Ruby H.N. Nguyen, Emily A. Knapp, Xiuhong Li, Carlos A. Camargo, Elisabeth Conradt, Whitney Cowell, Karen J. Derefinko, Amy J. Elliott, Alexander M. Friedman, Gurjit K. Khurana Hershey, Julie A. Hofheimer, Barry M. Lester, Cindy T. McEvoy, Jenae M. Neiderhiser, Emily Oken, Steven J. Ondersma, Sheela Sathyanarayana, Meagan E. Stabler, Annemarie Stroustrup, Irene TungMonica McGrath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: Opioid use has disproportionally impacted pregnant people and their fetuses. Previous studies describing opioid use among pregnant people are limited by geographic location, type of medical coverage, and small sample size. We described characteristics of a large, diverse group of pregnant people who were enrolled in the Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Program, and determined which characteristics were associated with opioid use during pregnancy. Materials and Methods: Cross-sectional data obtained from 21,905 pregnancies of individuals across the United States enrolled in the ECHO between 1990 and 2021 were analyzed. Medical records, laboratory testing, and self-report were used to determine opioid-exposed pregnancies. Multiple imputation methods using fully conditional specification with a discriminant function accounted for missing characteristics data. Results: Opioid use was present in 2.8% (n = 591) of pregnancies. The majority of people who used opioids in pregnancy were non-Hispanic White (67%) and had at least some college education (69%). Those who used opioids reported high rates of alcohol use (32%) and tobacco use (39%) during the pregnancy; although data were incomplete, only 5% reported heroin use and 86% of opioid use originated from a prescription. After adjustment, non-Hispanic White race, pregnancy during the years 2010-2012, higher parity, tobacco use, and use of illegal drugs during pregnancy were each significantly associated with opioid use during pregnancy. In addition, maternal depression was associated with increased odds of opioid use during pregnancy by more than two-fold (adjusted odds ratio 2.42, 95% confidence interval: 1.95-3.01). Conclusions: In this large study of pregnancies from across the United States, we found several factors that were associated with opioid use among pregnant people. Further studies examining screening for depression and polysubstance use may be useful for targeted interventions to prevent detrimental opioid use during pregnancy, while further elucidation of the reasons for use of prescription opioids during pregnancy should be further explored.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-170
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Women's Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


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