Prescription opioid abuse has reached an all-time high and new mothers are joining the ranks of accidental addicts who are prescribed too much opioid medication after a C-section. Birth by Cesarean section has been rising steadily for decades, with C-section ranked as the most common major surgery among women in the United States. Annually, 1,258,581 women undergo C-sections, which is 31.9% of all births in this country. Because C-section delivery side effects can be intensely painful, it’s a common practice for obstetricians and hospitals to give opioids to postpartum mothers. This includes powerful prescriptions, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, to help them manage pain after C-section. Huge numbers of new mothers are increasingly becoming exposed to potentially addictive medications after C-section. The problem is not that they are getting pain medicine. They may be getting too much medicine.
New Moms and Opioids
With over 30% of babies being delivered via a surgical procedure, C-section delivery side effects are high and prescriptions for opioids are automatic in many cases, according to recent studies. One study involving 720 women in the United States who had undergone a C-section showed that new moms may be receiving too many pills:
- 615 (85.4%) filled an opioid prescription
- On average they received 30 to 40 pills
- The median number consumed was 20
- On average there were 15 left over
- 3% had not disposed of the excess medication
What Are the Risks of Pain Pills After C-Section?
Giving birth hurts, no matter how a baby is delivered. But it’s especially painful to have to also recover from surgery after C-section. While no one argues that mothers suffering from C-section delivery side effects require pain medicine, there is a concern about giving more pills than needed. Research shows addiction and other problems can develop when there is a surplus of the medicine, and that opioids can be a gateway drug to heroin. Experts are concerned that giving new moms more pills than needed can lead them to consume more medicine than is required. It can also lead to misuse of the pills. With the stress and demands of caring for a new baby, moms may fall into dependency on the medicine and come to need opioid addiction treatment before they even realize it. The spectrum of potential problems is wide-ranging. Research has found there are many risks involved. For example, some people give their leftover pills to other people to use. There is also the risk of accidental ingestion, especially if there are small children in the house. It was also discovered that most people did not safely dispose of medicine, for example by dropping prescriptions off at medication drives.
Given the fact that C-section is one of the most common inpatient surgeries in the United States, experts believe that obstetricians need more education and guidance in prescribing the right amount of medicine and avoiding excess pills. Although opioids are the gold standard for treating post-surgical pain, medical professionals are exploring ways to utilize non-opioid alternatives for pain management. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to pain management. Taking each new mom’s individual needs into consideration can help doctors prescribe a healthier approach. Sources: “Patterns of Opioid Prescription and Use After Cesarean Delivery” – Wolters Kluwer: Obstetrics & Gynecoloy https://journals.lww.com/greenjournal/Fulltext/2017/07000/Patterns_of_Opioid_Prescription_and_Use_After.5.aspx “Outpatient Opioid Use After Cesarean Section” – Wolters Kluwer: Obstetrics & Gynecoloy https://journals.lww.com/greenjournal/Abstract/2017/05001/Outpatient_Opioid_Use_After_Cesarean_Section.21.aspx “Postdischarge Opioid Use After Cesarean Delivery” – Wolters Kluwer: Obstetrics & Gynecoloy https://journals.lww.com/greenjournal/Fulltext/2017/07000/Postdischarge_Opioid_Use_After_Cesarean_Delivery.6.aspx “Two Studies Suggest Fewer Opioids Could Be Prescribed After Cesarean Sections” -Wolters Kluwer: American Journal of Nursing https://journals.lww.com/ajnonline/Fulltext/2017/09000/Two_Studies_Suggest_Fewer_Opioids_Could_Be.12.aspx “Pain Killers Can Pose Problems for New Mothers” – The Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/painkillers-can-pose-problems-for-new-mothers/2017/09/01/bfea8002-76e6-11e7-8839-ec48ec4cae25_story.html?utm_term=.c9a7138d3948 “New Mothers and Opioids After C-Section” – The Huffington Post https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/mothers-opioids-after-c-sections_us_5969121be4b03389bb17376c “Eliminating the Need for Opioids in Cesarean Section Deliveries” – U.S. News & World Report: Health https://health.usnews.com/health-care/for-better/articles/2017-11-16/eliminating-the-need-for-opioids-in-cesarean-section-deliveries “Births – Method of Delivery” – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/delivery.htm