New mothers are at a higher risk of developing opioid addiction

(Ohio) – Results from research from Vanderbilt University in Nashville examined data from more than 102,000 new mothers in Tennessee.

According to the research, none of the mothers in the study had used opioids in the 180 days before delivery. Researchers discovered, however, after delivery 89 percent who had a cesarean delivery and 53 percent who had vaginal delivery filled opioid prescriptions. The study indicates that the overall rate of persistent opioid use in the year following delivery was less than 1 percent, however, it was higher among women who had C-sections.

The study detailed that women who filled an initial opioid prescription, the risk of continued use was similar for both groups and filling additional prescriptions substantially raised the risk for both groups.

Researchers suggest that the current practices of prescribing could place a large number of new mothers at risk for chronic opioid use. “Studying postpartum women gives us an excellent opportunity to compare two demographically similar populations of women with a common experience of childbirth, one discharged with opioid prescriptions routinely (cesarean birth), and one not discharged with opioid prescriptions routinely (vaginal birth),” explained Sarah Osmundson MD,  assistant professor of Maternal-Fetal Medicine in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the study’s lead author.

Because childbirth is a common occurrence, researchers projected the number of women who give birth each year and they estimated that unless postpartum opioid prescribing practices are modified, a large number of women who give birth could be at risk of becoming chronic opioid users.


“This study is one of the firsts to indicate that regardless of the delivery type, postpartum initiation of opioid use – a modifiable practice – is associated with persistent opioid use,” added study senior author Carlos Grijalva, MD, MPH, associate professor of Health Policy. “If our estimates were projected to the number of women who give birth annually in the United States, we calculated that every year there would be around 21,000 women becoming chronic opioid users that would be attributable to opioid use in the postpartum period.”

Based on these findings, the researchers are looking to obstetricians to exercise caution when prescribing potentially addictive pain medication after childbirth and to instead consider alternative pain management options.



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