Misuse of Prescription Drugs Research Report
Are prescription drugs safe to take when pregnant?

A mother holding her babyPhoto by ©Thinkstock.com/George Doyle

Some prescription medications taken by a pregnant woman can cause her baby to develop dependence, which can result in withdrawal symptoms after birth, known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). This can require a prolonged stay in neonatal intensive care and, in the case of opioids, treatment with medication (see "Sex and Gender Differences in Substance Use Disorder Treatment" in NIDA's Substance Use in Women Research Report). Women should consult with their doctors to determine which medications they can continue taking during pregnancy.

Opioid pain medications require particular attention; rising rates of NAS have been associated with increases in the prescription of opioids for pain in pregnant women. NAS associated with opioid use (heroin or prescription opioids) increased fivefold from 2000 to 2012, with a higher rate of increase in more recent years.52,53