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NEW YORK — Health officials are looking into a possible link between prescription opioids and a horrific birth defect.

When a baby is born with its intestines hanging outside the stomach, due to a hole in the abdominal wall, it’s called gastroschisis. Most are repaired through surgery.

Roughly 1,800 such cases are seen in the U.S. each year, but the number has been rising and officials don’t know why.


The condition seems to occur more often when the mom is a teenager or was smoking or drinking alcohol early in pregnancy, researchers have noted.

But a study released Thursday noted cases were 60 percent more common in counties that had the highest overall opioid prescription rates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study focused on 20 states.


The study did not see if each mother had been taking opioids, and it does not say opioids caused the birth defects. But it echoes earlier research that found a higher risk of birth defects when moms took opioid painkillers like oxycodone just before or early in pregnancy.

Also Thursday, the CDC’s director and two other agency officials wrote a commentary in the journal Pediatrics urging more study of the possible connection between opioids and birth defects.

“The report sounds an early alarm for the need to increase our public health surveillance on the full range of fetal, infant, and childhood outcomes potentially related to these exposures,” wrote CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield and his two co-authors.

— Mike Stobbe

  • Hello my name is Rebecca Lemmert and My son was born with birth defects because of the medication I was given while I was pregnant. My pcp Was giving me opiates while I was pregnant. She gave me oxymorphone 40 mgs and oxycodone 30 mgs 4 times a day. This caused my son to be in the Nicu for about 18 days. He also had jaundice and NAS. Currently it still effects him. He was also born with Torticollis and plageceplia. He has gastro intestinal defects and speech and auditory defects as well as developmental delays. He hadphysical therapy in our home for 1 and a half years for the torticollis. It will never go away it is a muscleskeletal defect. The doctor never told me any of these things would happen at all. So I am in need of help to get compensation for my son. I don’t know what the damages are to him in the years to come. I know that he has gatrointestinal defects that cause him to projectile vomit out of no where. It is very heart breaking to see him so behind on several things because of his developmental problems and other problems. Please help us God bless you 412 462 6608

  • “The study did not see if each mother had been taking opioids, and it does not say opioids caused the birth defects.”

    Enough said. Correlation does not imply causation. Just another useless study to continue to discourage doctors from prescribing opioid-based medication to those who legitimately need it.

  • That’s not a possible link between opioid medication and birth defects, that’s a possible link between reasons for opioid use and causes of birth defects.

    Unless the study specifically broke out pregnant women taking opioid medication for legitimate medical necessity versus illicit pill mill prescribing – which it didn’t – the study can’t possibly show the link the headline implies. Women with substance use disorder getting illicit medication from a pill mill are far more likely to also use other substances known to cause birth defects.

    Not to mention, a “horrific” disease that causes genetic mutation – just the sort of disease that might necessitate opioid pain medication for a pregnant woman – might also be heritable to her child. Should women with imperfect genes be forcibly prevented from having children, just because genetic disorders cause birth defects? Not in any rational or moral universe.

  • Give me a break . So now they will find another BAD madness when taking pain meds …Agsin ., alcohol was shown for causing birth defects .So is smoking .But , both still very legal .. commonplace it seems .a part of society .. As a first responder firefighter /Emt i have seen the effects of alcohol .The horrible images of car wrecks ..Give this a break .The overdoses now are caused by drs dumping there patient care for fear of losing there practice and causing 67 yr olds to seek help from illegal street drugs .heroin and fentanyl. Stop this madness .shame on all of you .

  • Correlation does not equal causation! Way to go CDC… This study didn’t even look at whether the mothers took opiate medication or not! Perhaps it’s air quality, or water contamination – the point is, we have NO idea but the CDC wants us to assume the birth defects are due to opiate use, continuing on the opiophobic agenda.

  • It is irresponsible to report nonsese like this. NSAIDs have been proven to cause sponateous abortion, yet they chose not to include that on the warning label. Opiod use is prevalent in Apghanastan, of course data from there would not be incuded in a study like this. A number of other factrs are on the increase here in the US, like anti depressants, toxins, and plastics, but looking at any of that could be bad for business. In Post Fact America, anything goes, and any silly correlation can be misreported as fact, to protect corporate profits.

  • If pregnant women are to avoid alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, heroin, cocaine etc for the negative impact on fetal development – then very, very logically so should they not be prescribed opiods such as oxycodone. The “prescription” part does not change the category or effects of these opiate drugs.
    Although commendable it is regretfully also deeply laughable that the CDC only now rings the alarm bell. Hight time to get this research in over-drive.

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