CDC reveals most women of child-bearing age use prescription painkillers

SHAFAQNA – The US Centers for Drug Control and Prevention (CDC) has published a report on the wide use of prescription painkillers by women of child-bearing age in the US, even against the fact that exposure to such drugs during pregnancy could cause birth defects.

According to CDC, over a third of women aged 15-44 on Medicaid filled prescription for opioid paid medications between 2008-2012, and a fourth of women aged 15-44 on other private insurance also did the same.

Taken to ease and treat moderate to severe pains, most of the women took opioid medications like oxycodone, codeine, and hydrocodone among others. However, this is the first time that the CDC would look into the use of prescription painkillers by childbearing women.

These painkillers have been adjudged to increase the chances of birth defects when taken in the early weeks of pregnancy, and they should not necessarily be prescribed to childbearing women unless of course they have been thoroughly examined and certified safe for taking them.

“Many women of reproductive age are taking these medicines and may not know they are pregnant and therefore may be unknowingly exposing their unborn child,” said CDC Director, Tom Frieden.

The researchers found out that reproductive-aged women in the South took more of these opioids than women in the Northeast. However, it is still unclear why most women on Medicaid use prescription painkillers – but CDC epidemiologist Jennifer Lind believes this could not be unconnected with the fact that this class of women have health issues that require pain medications.

“There may be more women on Medicaid who are manual laborers, jobs that cause more chronic pain,” Lind said in an interview.

However, CDC has taken the initiative to launch a “Treating for Two” program with the aim of raising awareness on the dangers of prescription painkillers to reproductive age.

“What we’re trying to do is expand research and also develop reliable guidance so that women and healthcare providers can have conversations and make informed decisions on what the safest options may be,” Lind said.

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