Co-occurrence of preconception maternal childhood adversity and opioid use during pregnancy: Implications for offspring brain development

Madeleine C. Allen, Nora K. Moog, Claudia Buss, Elizabeth Yen, Hanna C. Gustafsson, Elinor L. Sullivan, Alice M. Graham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Understanding of the effects of in utero opioid exposure on neurodevelopment is a priority given the recent dramatic increase in opioid use among pregnant individuals. However, opioid abuse does not occur in isolation—pregnant individuals abusing opioids often have a significant history of adverse experiences in childhood, among other co-occurring factors. Understanding the specific pathways in which these frequently co-occurring factors may interact and cumulatively influence offspring brain development in utero represents a priority for future research in this area. We highlight maternal history of childhood adversity (CA) as one such co-occurring factor that is more prevalent among individuals using opioids during pregnancy and which is increasingly shown to affect offspring neurodevelopment through mechanisms beginning in utero. Despite the high incidence of CA history in pregnant individuals using opioids, we understand very little about the effects of comorbid prenatal opioid exposure and maternal CA history on fetal brain development. Here, we first provide an overview of current knowledge regarding effects of opioid exposure and maternal CA on offspring neurodevelopment that may occur during gestation. We then outline potential mechanistic pathways through which these factors might have interactive and cumulative influences on offspring neurodevelopment as a foundation for future research in this area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107033
JournalNeurotoxicology and Teratology
StatePublished - Nov 1 2021


  • Brain development
  • In utero exposure
  • Maternal childhood adversity
  • Maternal-placental fetal biology
  • Opioid epidemic
  • Prenatal opioid exposure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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