The rates of serious birth defects are increasing in the United States, and a new report suggests that the condition may be related to the use of opioids.
The report, published on January 17 by researchers from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, discusses cases of gastroschisis, a birth defect in which a baby is born with its intestines out of the body, due to a hole in the abdominal wall. . Surgery is necessary to replace the intestines in the body and repair the hole, but even after this treatment, babies may have problems with digestion, food and absorption of food, according to the CDC. The cause of the condition is usually unknown, but it is thought that mothers under 20 are at greater risk than older mothers.
The new report badyzed information on gastroschisis cases in 20 US states. UU And he found that the gastroschisis rate increased 10 percent from 2006 to 2010, from 2011 to 2015. Specifically, the report found that the gastroschisis rate increased from 4.2 cases per 10,000 live births in 2006 to 2010, to 4.5 cases per 10,000 live births in 2011 to 2015. The greatest increases were observed in babies of mothers between 20 and 30 years old. [7 Baby Myths Debunked]
The new report follows a previous study that found that the gastroschisis rate also increased between 1995 and 2012.
The reason for the increase is unknown, but the new report suggests a link to the opioid epidemic. The researchers found that the prevalence of gastroschisis was 1.6 times higher in counties with high rates of prescription opioid use, compared to counties with low rates of prescription opioids.
Even so, the researchers noted that the study only found an badociation, and can not prove that the use of opioids causes gastroschisis. The study examined the use of opioids and gastroschisis rates only at the population level, and had no information on whether women who had babies with gastroschisis were exposed to opioids.
Dr. Saima Aftab, medical director of the Fetal Care Center at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami, who was not involved in the study, said that this increase in cases of gastroschisis is worrisome. And the fact that rates rise not only in women under the age of 20, who are believed to be most at risk, but also in the older age groups is "even more alarming," Aftab told Live Science. This suggests that "there is something that changes" about the usual patterns of gastroschisis epidemiology.
Aftab noted that she and her colleagues also noticed an increase in cases of gastroschisis in their hospital's fetal program, even in the last six months.
Gastroschisis is a serious condition that can cause swelling, sprains and damage to the baby's intestines before birth, Aftab said. Even after surgery, the bowels can take weeks to start functioning and babies can stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for months, he said.
The link to opioids seen in the new report is an interesting signal, said Aftab, although he also warned that the report can not determine causality.
But "it does direct where we should direct our research and how we can answer these questions," he said. For example, basic science studies in animals can see if opioids break blood vessels or intestinal tissue when taken during pregnancy. And researchers can also see if there is a link between high-risk populations of women who use opioids in pregnancy.
"The report concludes that having a better understanding of all the possible effects of opioid use during pregnancy can help provide evidence-based information to health professionals and women about the potential risks to the developing fetus."
Originally published in Living science.