2% of US women continue using opioids after childbirth, study finds

About 2 percent of women prescribed opioid painkillers around the time of childbirth show signs of persistent opioid use following initial prescription, according to a study published July 26 in JAMA Network Open and reported by STAT.

Researchers examined national insurance claims data on 988,036 women from a single private payer from the period between Jan. 1, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2016. They paid special attention to prescription timing and size.

Around 1.7 percent of women with vaginal deliveries and 2.2 percent with cesarean deliveries displayed persistent opioid use, according to the report, which defines "persistence" as two prescription refills within a year following delivery. Though overall persistence declined between 2008 and 2016, the study found an association between higher rates of persistent opioid use and pre-delivery prescriptions, cesarean sections and hysterectomies.

"This study shows that there continues to be a chance to really intervene on the prevention side," said Marian Jarlenski, PhD, an assistant professor of health policy and management at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. Dr. Jarlenski was not involved in the study.

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