Filling opioid prescriptions postpartum ups risk of persistent use regardless of delivery type

Women who fill opioid prescriptions for pain early in the postpartum period have a higher risk of developing persistent use patterns, according to a research letter published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Researchers analyzed data for 102,541 women covered by Tennessee Medicaid who gave birth. The women included in the study had not used opioids in the 180 days before the delivery.

They found that 89 percent of the women who had a cesarean section delivery and 53 percent who had a vaginal delivery filled opioid prescriptions during the postpartum period. Persistent opioid use during the year following delivery was less than 1 percent overall, however, those who those filled initial opioid prescriptions in both groups had a higher chance of persistent use during the next year.

Additionally, the incidence of persistent opioid use during the year after delivery was higher among women with cesarean versus vaginal delivery.

"Hopefully, this work will also provoke opioid prescribers in other fields — surgical and non-surgical — to consider the long-term implication of opioid prescribing and seek novel, safe and effective approaches to managing pain," said Sarah Osmundson, MD, assistant professor of maternal-fetal medicine in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Nashville, Tenn.-based Vanderbilt University Medical Center and lead author of the study.

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