Use of prescription narcotic-based painkillers is deadly for women in the childbearing age, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns in the latest report. The agency further said that many women in the reproductive age who take opioid painkillers do so without knowing whether they are pregnant or not. Opioid can increase risks of birth defects in women who use them during pregnancy.

According to CDC, the most commonly used narcotic painkillers are oxycodone, hydrocodone and codeine. The agency drew its findings from the analysis of data in the years 2008-2012. Besides uncovering the opioids in common use among the pregnant women in the U.S., CDC made other interesting discoveries. The agency said that more women on Medicaid used prescription narcotic painkillers in the years than those under private health insurance. For Medicaid covered women, 39% used prescription painkillers while 28% on private insurance coverage used the drugs.

Birth defects

If used during pregnancy, CDC said that opioids could cause birth defects such as congenital heart defect, spina bifida and other conditions such as gastroschisis. Congenital heart defect is a common problem in the U.S., occurring in nine out of 1,000 births. However, the other two defects occur in less than 2,000 births in any year.

CDC established that narcotic painkillers are usually prescribed for conditions such as moderate to severe pain. As for the pregnant women, the agency said that the early stage of the pregnancy is very crucial.

Liberal use of narcotic painkillers

It has been cited that use of narcotic painkillers in the U.S. boomed over the past 15 years as drug makers pushed for more space to sell such medicines. That happened even as other questioned the effectiveness of the opioids in chronic pain management.

Better food for pregnant women

In a separate case, the FDA recommended a lot of fish in the diet for pregnant women. The agency cited various benefits of fish servings, such as better fetal brain and nervous system development. Fish is also said to be good for breastfeeding mothers as it improves overall health of the baby and the mother.

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