If you are pregnant or suspect you may be pregnant and are taking pain killers, talk with your doctor. A recent report issued by the Center for Disease Control states that use of opioid medications such as such as codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, or morphine may increase the risk of birth defects.

Experts estimate about half of all pregnancies are unplanned, therefore, women may be prescribed these pain medications before they or their medical care provider know they are pregnant.

According to the study, “Opioid-containing medications are widely prescribed among reproductive-aged women with either private insurance or Medicaid, with approximately one fourth of privately insured and over one third of Medicaid-enrolled women filling a prescription for an opioid each year during 2008–2012.”

Geography and ethnicity played a large role in the dispensing of these drugs. Data collected showed opioid prescription rates were highest among reproductive-aged women (those ages 15 to 44) who lived in the South and lowest for those living in the Northeast. Data also indicated that opioid prescriptions were nearly 1.5 times higher among white reproductive-aged women than among black or Hispanic women.

January is Birth Defects Prevention Month. A baby is born with a birth defect every four and a half minutes in the United States, and one out of every five deaths in the first year of life is caused by a birth defect. In addition to the human toll, birth defects incur hospital-related economic costs that exceed $2.6 billion annually.

Ensure your best health and the best health of your unborn. If you’re taking prescription pain killers, and think you might be pregnant or know that you are, consult with your health care provider.