The number of babies born with exposed intestines is increasing and researchers believe that it could be linked to the opioid epidemic. According to a new study from the Centers For Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), the condition, officially known as gastroschisis, was found to be more prevalent in areas that have high opioid prescription rates. The research also found that more babies with gastroschisis are being born to “older” women although it’s most widespread among mothers who are younger than 20, CNN reports.
The CDC study states that the number of children born with the condition doubled between 1995 and 2005. The numbers also experienced a 30 percent leap between 2006 and 2012.
As CNN notes, the connection between birth defects and opioid use has been made before. While it doesn’t tackle gastroschisis specifically, a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2011 advised that expectant mothers should be warned about taking these drugs during early pregnancy because of the risk.
“Consistent with some previous investigations, our study shows an association between early pregnancy maternal opioid analgesic treatment and certain birth defects,” the conclusion read.
“This information should be considered by women and their physicians who are making treatment decisions during pregnancy.”
According to the CDC, gastroschisis happens when the muscles in the baby’s abdomen fail to develop properly. The babies are therefore born with a hole in the abdominal wall through which their internal organs can poke through. Without protection, these crucial organs can become damaged and this jeopardizes the health of the baby.
A potentially deadly birth defect in which babies are born with exposed intestines is on the rise, and researchers are concerned that it might be tied to the opioid epidemic https://t.co/wOfdC0ot7P pic.twitter.com/gvPfQk3cQ8— CNN International (@cnni) January 17, 2019
Although their recent study seems to offer a connection between gastroschisis and the use of opioids, the CDC stressed that they are not claiming that it is the definite cause of the condition. There’ll need to be more research for more concrete findings to be reached, they say.
“We plan to use this information to guide future research into the effects of opioids used during pregnancy,” said Jennita Reefhuis chief of the Birth Defects Branch at CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, as reported by WebMD.
Opioid use has been on the rise in the United States in recent years. According to The National Institute on DrugUse, more than 130 people lose their lives each day because of an opioid overdose. The deaths are caused by the abuse of prescription drugs and illegal ones like heroin. Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid more potent than morphine, is a big killer as well, accounting for more than 30,000 overdose deaths in 2017, the CDC reports.