TUESDAY, Jan. 22, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Over time, the prevalence of gastroschisis has increased, with more babies born with gastroschisis in areas with high and medium versus low opioid prescription rates, according to research published in the Jan. 18 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Tyiesha D. Short, M.P.H., from the CDC in Atlanta, and colleagues pooled data from 20 population-based state surveillance programs and examined age-specific gastroschisis prevalence during 2006 to 2010 and 2011 to 2015. Annual gastroschisis prevalence was compared by annual opioid prescription rate categories using an ecologic approach.

The researchers found that the prevalence of gastroschisis increased 10 percent from 2006-2010 to 2011-2015 (prevalence ratio, 1.10; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.0 to 1.1); prevalence was highest among mothers aged <20 years. Compared with areas with low opioid prescription rates, the prevalence of gastroschisis was 1.6 times higher in counties with high opioid prescription rates and 1.4 times higher in counties with medium opioid prescription rates (5.1 and 4.6, respectively, versus 3.2 per 10,000 live births).

“Given that the majority of infants with gastroschisis are born to mothers aged <25 years, continued research is needed to focus on possible causal factors in the unique association between young maternal age and gastroschisis,” the authors write. “The findings from the ecologic analysis can be used to prioritize basic science, public health, and clinical research on opioid exposure during pregnancy and its potential impact on birth defects.”

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