Researchers from Rutgers Health and Harvard Medical School have found fewer congenital defects in children whose mothers treated opioid use disorder with buprenorphine rather than methadone during the first trimester of pregnancy. The study findings extend those from a previous study from the same research group, which found fewer preterm births and fewer incidences of withdrawal symptoms in the children of buprenorphine users compared to methadone.

The study authors said the findings support the use of buprenorphine in pregnancy as a first treatment option for many patients. The findings do not, however, justify a switch from methadone to buprenorphine during pregnancy, which would entail an added risk of side effects and relapse.

“There have long been questions about which of these two medications is better in pregnancy,” said Elizabeth Suarez, a pharmacoepidemiologist at the Rutgers Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research and lead author of the study. “Methadone has been the traditional choice, but there’s been a steady shift to buprenorphine since it arrived in 2003. Both are recommended in standards of care, and there hasn’t been a lot of data to choose between them.” To read the full story.