HealthDay News — According to a policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published in Pediatrics, prevention and treatment — and not legal action — should be the focus when dealing with pregnant women who use opioids.

“Over the last two decades, use of opioids surged throughout the United States, and as they did, we have seen an increase in opioid-related complications in nearly every population, including pregnant women and their infants,” statement coauthor Stephen Patrick, MD, MPH, said in an AAP news release. 

“Our response should be grounded in public health. We should be bolstering efforts targeted at primary prevention, like prescription drug-monitoring programs, and expanding treatment tailored to the specific needs of pregnant women and their families.”

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Along with improving access to birth control, prenatal care, and substance abuse treatment, the AAP recommends the following: routine alcohol and drug screening for all women of childbearing age; providing information and obtaining informed consent for drug testing and reporting; better access to comprehensive obstetric care, including opioid-replacement therapy; drug and alcohol treatment programs designed for pregnant women; and more money for social services and child welfare systems.

“Pregnant women must be able to discuss their substance use openly with their medical providers without fear of punishment,” statement coauthor Davida Schiff, MD, said in the news release. “Punitive policies towards pregnant women with substance use disorder are detrimental to the health of mother and baby.”


Patrick SW and Schiff DM. “A Public Health Response To Opioid Use In Pregnancy”. Pediatrics. 2017. doi: 10.1542/peds.2016-4070 [Epub ahead of print]

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