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Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2017 Jun;26(6):625-634. doi: 10.1002/pds.4170. Epub 2017 Feb 7.

Language competence and communication skills in 3-year-old children after prenatal exposure to analgesic opioids.

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Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway.
Department of Public Health and Nursing, NTNU, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway.
Norwegian Centre for Addiction Research, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.



An increasing consumption of opioids in the general population has been reported in several countries also among pregnant women. Limited information is available regarding the effect of prenatal exposure to analgesic opioids on long-term neurocognitive function in children. The primary aim of the study was to determine the association between prenatal exposure to analgesic opioids and language competence and communication skills at 3 years of age.


The Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa) prospectively included pregnant women during the period from 1999 to 2008. Participants reported medication use at pregnancy weeks 17-18 and 30, and 6 months after birth. Children's language competence and communication skills were reported by mothers on validated scales.


A total of 45 211 women with 51 679 singleton pregnancies were included. The use of analgesic opioids was reported in 892 pregnancies (1.7%). In adjusted analyses, no association between opioid use and reduced language competence or communication skills was found, OR = 1.04 (95%CI: 0.89-1.22) and OR = 1.10 (95%CI: 0.95-1.27), respectively. Both pain and use of paracetamol were associated with a small reduction in communication skills. No such association was found for language competence.


The use of analgesic opioids in pregnant women does not seem to affect language development or communication skills in children at 3 years of age. Copyright © 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


MoBa; communication skills; language competence; neurodevelopment; opioids; pharmacoepidemiology

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