About CDC’s Work on Opioid Use During Pregnancy

Pregnant woman with doctor

Reducing opioid misuse and inappropriate use during pregnancy as well as opioid-related harms for women, infants, and children are key parts of CDC’s response to the Opioid Crisis. On this page, you will get an overview of CDC’s research, programs, and other efforts to better understand opioid use during pregnancy.

CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health

CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health (DRH) is the focal point for issues related to reproductive, maternal, and infant health. CDC’s DRH is dedicated to improving the lives of women, children, and families through research, public health monitoring, scientific assistance, and partnerships. CDC’s DRH activities and programs provide support to organizations, institutions, providers, and consumers across the United States and around the world.

CDC’s DRH addresses opioid use during pregnancy by

Learn more about DRH’s efforts to address opioid use disorder to improve maternal and infant health.

CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities

CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) works to identify causes of birth defects, infant disorders, and developmental disabilities; finds opportunities to prevent them; and improves the health of those living with these conditions. By applying a public health approach that incorporates three essential elements—disease tracking, research to identify causes, and prevention research and programs—CDC’s NCBDDD can rapidly translate scientific findings into appropriate public health interventions.

With broad expertise and a longstanding focus on health outcomes among infants and children, CDC’s NCBDDD addresses opioid use during pregnancy by

  • Adapting existing ways to gather information about birth defects to also gather information about NAS.
  • Monitoring and reporting the occurrence of prescription opioid use in women of reproductive age and pregnant women.
  • Monitoring NAS consistently across states that are implementing the new CSTE case definition to improve comparability of estimates.
  • Investigating possible associations between opioid exposure during pregnancy and birth defectsexternal icon.
    • Examined whether more babies were born with birth defects, such as gastroschisis, in counties where opioid prescription rates were higher.
  • Looking at prenatal substance use and the child welfare program.
  • Examining longer-term outcomesexternal icon among children born with NAS in the United States.

Learn more about NCBDDD’s efforts to address opioid use disorder during pregnancy.

Multicenter collaborative projects

Opioid Use Disorder, Maternal Outcomes, and Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Initiative (OMNI)

CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health is leading the OMNI project, supporting state teams through a learning community framework. This initiative is working to implement policies and programs to address opioid use among pregnant and postpartum women, as well as infants prenatally exposed to opioids. As part of this project, CDC’s NCBDDD is helping to build state and local capacity so data can be used to understand community needs, address policy gaps, and identify best practices.

NAS surveillance case definition

CDC is collaborating with Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists in their development of a public health case definition for monitoring the number of infants born with NAS. Using consistent criteria to define this condition for public health reporting can help ensure quality data are collected that can be compared across geographic areas and help match clinical services for women.

Page last reviewed: October 30, 2019