New York: Women who are prescribed opioids after childbirth have an increased risk of serious opioid-related events, including overdose and death, in their first year postpartum, say researchers.
This is true regardless of whether the woman had a vaginal delivery or a caesarean section, according to the study, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
“This work highlights serious risks associated with opioid prescribing after childbirth, especially among women who receive multiple prescriptions,” said study researcher Sarah Osmundson from Vanderbilt University in the US.
“Routine prescribing after vaginal birth is still common, and it is alarming to know that this may put women at risk of long-term problems with opioids for a procedure (vaginal birth) where opioids have dubious benefit,” Osmundson added.
For the findings, the research team followed more than 160,000 pregnant women ages 18-44 who had no history of opioid prescriptions or opioid use disorder within 180 days before their delivery.
The findings showed that more than half of the women who delivered vaginally and 91 per cent of women who delivered via C-section filled at least one opioid prescription following childbirth.
More than 10 per cent of vaginal births and 24 per cent of C-sections also involved filling a second opioid prescription in the postpartum period. According to the researchers, increasing the number of postpartum opioid prescriptions also increased a woman’s risk for experiencing a serious opioid-related event, including opioid-related death, persistent use and a diagnosis of opioid use disorder.
“While prior studies have looked at persistent opioid use after surgery, including C-sections, little attention has been paid to serious opioid-related events following vaginal childbirth, leaving physicians with limited information about the associated risks,” said study senior researcher Carlos G. Grijalva.
“Current clinical guidelines do not provide clear recommendations for opioid prescribing after childbirth, so this work can help inform practice,” Grijalva added.