HealthDay News — Prenatal opioid exposure (POE) is negatively associated with neurocognitive and physical development in offspring from the age of 6 months into school age, according to a study published online July 12 in JAMA Network Open.

Su Lynn Yeoh, from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, and colleagues reviewed data from 26 peer-reviewed cohort studies to examine the correlation between POE and cognitive and motor development in children aged 6 months to 18 years. Cognitive outcomes were compared for 1455 children with POE and 2982 nonexposed children across 3 age groups (mean age at cognitive testing, 13 months, 4.5 years, and 13 years for the toddler, preschool, and school-aged groups, respectively). For 688 children with POE and 1,500 nonexposed children up to age 6 years, motor outcomes were compared.

The researchers found that the standardized mean difference in cognitive tests was lower for children with POE at 0 to 2 years and 3 to 6 years (d, −0.52 [95% confidence interval (CI), −0.74 to −0.31; P < 0.001] and −0.38 [95% CI, −0.69 to −0.07; P < 0.001], respectively); for those aged 7 to 18 years, the difference was not significant (d, −0.44; 95% CI, −1.16 to 0.28; P = 0.23). Children with POE had significantly lower motor scores (d, −0.49; 95% CI, −0.74 to −0.23; P < 0.001).

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“The exact cause and the association of these findings with clinical factors and environmental adversities are unclear but suggest that children with POE should be provided long-term support and intervention beyond infancy,” the authors write.

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