Self-Reported Prescription Opioid Use During Pregnancy

white pills spilling out of medicine bottle
The CDC analyzed prescription opioid use during pregnancy via a self-reported survey.

Most women who used opioids during pregnancy reported receiving a prescription for the analgesic from a healthcare provider, but approximately 1 in 5 women reported that they misused these opioids during pregnancy, according to a study published in MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. This study analyzed data from a 2019 survey of women in 34 jurisdictions in the United States.

The investigators of this study analyzed 2019 data from the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) survey, including responses to supplementary questions regarding prescription opioid use during pregnancy asked in 32 jurisdictions. Additionally, the researchers analyzed 2019 data from maternal and infant health surveys in 2 other jurisdictions that did not participate in PRAMS. The self-reported use of opioid prescriptions during pregnancy were estimated, both overall and stratified by maternal characteristics among women with a recent live birth.

Responses from a total of 20,643 respondents who provided information about prescription opioid use during their most recent pregnancy were included in this analysis. Approximately 6.6% (n=1405) of these women said they used a prescription opioid during pregnancy. The majority of patients (91.3%) reported they received their opioid from a healthcare provider. The remaining women who used opioids during their pregnancy said they received the opioid from another source, such as a family member or a friend, or from an undetermined source.

Among the women who reported using a prescription opioid during their pregnancy, approximately 21.2% reported misuse, and 4.0% reported both a non-healthcare provider source for the opioid and use reasons other than pain.

A higher proportion of women who misused opioids reported wanting or needing to cut down or stop vs women who did not report misuse (36.5% vs 24.5%, respectively; P <.05). Around 68.1% of women who used opioids during pregnancy reported they received counseling by a healthcare provider on the effects of the drug on the infant.

Limitations of this study were the reliance on self-reported data on opioid use from women in only 34 jurisdictions, which might affect the generalizability of the findings.

The investigators of the analysis suggest that “improved screening for opioid misuse and treatment of opioid use disorder in pregnant patients might prevent adverse outcomes.”


Ko JY, D’Angelo DV, Haight SC, et al. Vital signs: Prescription opioid pain reliever use during pregnancy – 34 U.S. jurisdictions, 2019. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020;69(28):897-903.