Painkillers and Pregnancy: What Every Woman Needs to Know

If you're of childbearing age and take perscription painkillers, you're going to want to read this.

Today the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a new analysis about women's widespread use of prescription painkillers and the risk of birth defects.

It revealed that more than one-quarter of privately insured and one-third of Medicaid-enrolled women of childbearing age filled prescriptions for opioid-based painkillers between 2008 and 2012. And many women don't know that these drugs—for instance the popular codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine—can double the risks for birth defects of the brain, spine, and heart, as well as for preterm birth. Plus, they can cause withdrawal symptoms for baby.

If you're not TTC and think this doesn't apply to you, consider that about half of all pregnancies are unplanned, according to the March of Dimes—so you could put a baby at risk before you even know you're pregnant.

So what does the new analysis mean for women?

"If you're using prescription painkillers, and you're pregnant or thinking of having a baby, do not stop taking your medication, but speak with your doctor or healthcare provider right away. You may be able to switch to a safer alternative," says Siobhan Dolan, M.D., a medical advisor to the March of Dimes.

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Alesandra Dubin is a new twin mom. She's also a Los Angeles-based writer and the founder of home and travel blog Homebody in Motion. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and Twitter.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

If your doctor gave you a prescription before you got pregnant, it might not be safe now. Learn what is okay to take and when to talk to your doctor.

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