The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently released a policy statement titled: A Public Health Response to Opioid Use in Pregnancy . The statement addresses findings regarding pregnant women with substance abuse and the effectiveness of policies in response to the opioid epidemic. Since 1990 the AAP has advised that “punitive measures taken toward pregnant women, such as criminal prosecution and incarceration, have no proven benefits for infant health” and recommended that “the public must be assured of non-punitive access to comprehensive care that meets the needs of the substance-abusing pregnant woman and her infant.”
According to the statement, while almost 50 percent of all US pregnancies are unintended, the rate for women with opioid use disorder was higher than 85 percent. In addition, opioid use in pregnancy is on the rise, resulting in an increase in opioid-exposed infants. According to a 2009 report by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, each year an estimated 400,000 infants are exposed to alcohol or illicit drugs in utero.
To address this concern, the AAP highlights the importance of primary prevention as an effective public health approach to combat substance use during pregnancy. Specifically, the role that preconception and inter-conception care play in improving the outcomes for pregnant women, particularly women with opioid use disorder. Included in this public health approach, are recommendations to improve education, equality and access to health care.
Address correspondence to Stephen W. Patrick, MD, MPH, MS, FAAP. E-mail: