Pregnancy, postpartum drug overdoses have increased 3x

Drug overdose deaths have tripled for U.S. mothers between the age of 35 to 40, but also substantially increased across all ages, races, ethnicities, educational and marital status, according to a Nov. 22 report from the National Institutes of Health.

The study narrowed its focus to women between the ages of 10 and 44 who were pregnant or postpartum between January to June 2018 and July to December 2021.

Researchers found that women who died from a drug overdose during their pregnancy were more likely to be 10 to 34, non-college graduates, unmarried and die outside of a healthcare setting. 

Overall, 51% of pregnant women who died of overdoses lived in counties where there were at least two general. The same was true for 53% of postpartum women who died of drug overdoses.  

Even beyond traditional medical care, 58% of pregnant women who died of overdoses lived in counties where there were practicing psychiatrists proportionate to the population's needs. This was also true for 67% of postpartum women who died from the same cause.

"These results reflect the persistent national overdose crisis and demonstrate that pregnancy is an urgent time for interventions that can reduce the risk of overdose," said Emily Einstein, PhD, science policy branch chief for the National Institute on Drug Abuse and co-author of the study. "Stigmatizing and penalizing women with substance use disorders makes it very hard for them to seek help for drug use and receive routine prenatal care. Effective treatments and medical services exist – unfettered access is needed to help mothers and children survive."

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