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Some Painkillers Tied to Certain Birth Defects in Study

Overall risk of problems like spina bifida called low, but experts advise women to discuss prescription opioid use with doctor

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Yazdy said women of reproductive age who feel they need treatment with opioid painkillers should communicate with their physicians to discern the pros and cons.

"It's really important that women talk with their health care provider about whether the benefits of treatment outweigh the possible risks," she said.

For her part, Dolan said alternative types of painkillers could be prescribed, although she acknowledged that sometimes "there are instances where the risk is worth taking."

"The more important question is: If something is preventable, why not prevent it?" she said. "The focus is what we can do to prevent any birth defect. That window of time around conception is one of the most critical times to be in the best condition possible."

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