In a recent Google search about Suboxone and pregnancy, one of the top links included the frightening statement that Suboxone and buprenorphine have been linked to SIDS or sudden infant death syndrome, commonly called ‘crib death.’
The statement was from a health forum where a woman wrote about taking Suboxone during pregnancy. She wrote that her child went through opioid withdrawal after delivery, recovered, and then died two months later from SIDS. She then claims that her doctors told her that Suboxone was a possible reason for her child’s death.
I don’t know if the woman’s story is true. If it is, I hope my comments do not cause her pain, and I’m sorry for her loss. But someone should comment on the information, given the number of young women on Suboxone who become pregnant and frantically search the internet for reassurance that their baby will be OK. I know that pregnant women in my practice lose a great deal of sleep because of guilt over taking buprenorphine. I am not a SIDS specialist, obstetrician, or pediatrician, and I do not actively follow the SIDS literature. But I have done some reading to prepare for this post, and I’ll do my best to address the issue.
While the causes of SIDS are not completely understood, a number of factors have been associated with sudden infant death, including maternal age and socioeconomic status (higher rates in infants of poorer, younger mothers), maternal smoking, air pollution, low birth weight, season of birth (higher in infants born in the winter), too high or too low room temperature, male sex, history of premature birth, and bottle feeding (instead of breastfeeding).
One of the biggest risk factors is the easiest to correct: sleeping position. The incidence of SIDS is thought to be about twice as high for babies who are placed prone (face-down). Since 1992, when 4895 deaths were attributed to SIDS in the US, a public relations campaign to encourage parents to place infants on their backs may have reduced the incidence of SIDS by 50%. I write ‘may …