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Perinatal outcomes of Australian buprenorphine-exposed mothers and their newborn infants


  • Conflict of interest: None declared.

Correspondence: Dr Ju Lee Oei, Department of Newborn Care, Royal Hospital for Women, Barker Street, Randwick, NSW 2031, Australia. Fax: +61 2 9382 6191; email:



To determine the short-term outcomes of Australian buprenorphine-exposed mother/infant dyads.


Retrospective record review of drug-exposed mothers and infants in Australia. Groups were based on drug exposure: buprenorphine (55, 3.8%), non-buprenorphine opiates (O, 686, 48.6%) and non-opiates (NO, 671, 47.5%).


More than 30% of buprenorphine mothers continued to use heroin (21, 38%) and benzodiazepines (16, 29%). They were more likely to have child at risk concerns (29, 52.7%, P = 0.019) and have previous children placed in out-of-home care (9, 16.3%, P = 049). Buprenorphine babies were less likely to be preterm (16% vs. 25% (O), P = 0.001 and 23% (NO), P = 0.004) and had higher birthweights (median: 3165 g vs. 2842.5 g (O), P < 0.001 and 2900 g (NO), P = 0.004). Buprenorphine and non-buprenorphine opioid babies had similar maximum Finnegan scores (median 10 vs. 11(O), P = 0.144). The number of babies needing abstinence treatment (45% vs. 51% (O), P = 0.411) and length of hospital stay (median days 9 vs. 11(O), P = 0.067) were similar, but buprenorphine infants required lower maximum morphine doses (mg/kg/day) (median 0.4 mg vs. 0.5 mg (O), P = 0.009).


Short-term medical outcomes of infants of buprenorphine-using mothers are similar to those of non-buprenorphine opiate-using mothers, but interpretation of these results is confounded by the high rates of polydrug exposure in the buprenorphine group. This and other social concerns noted in buprenorphine mothers and infants warrant further study.