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Utah moms more likely to be prescribed opioids after c-section

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah women who have a C-section are more likely to be prescribed an opioid for pain relief than women in other states.

A study conducted by the University of Michigan found 75% of women who had a C-section were prescribed an opioid for pain relief after the procedure.

“In Utah it was more like 100%,” says Marcela Smid, an Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of  Utah.

Smid is also the director of the University of Utah Health’s Substance Use in Pregnancy Recovery and Addiction Dependence (SUPeRAD). SUPeRAD is a prenatal clinic for pregnant women dealing with substance use issues. She says this study is pointing to an important hole in what we currently know.

“And that is, what happens to women after OBs prescribe to them,” Smid tells KSL Newsradio.

About the study

The University of Michigan researchers studied 300,000 women who gave birth between 2008 and 2016.  They found during that time almost 50% of new mothers in the U.S. were prescribed opioids before or after delivery. They also found that one in 75 mothers were still taking the powerful pain medication one year later. The likelihood of receiving an opioid prescription was higher for women who had a c-section compared to vaginal delivery.

Smid says that the study’s findings are important. The researchers have identified how the nationwide opioid epidemic has reached a specific group of people, namely, pregnant women. Even more specifically, women who have c-sections.

But she says the implications go beyond who is being treated for pain.

“What they (the researchers) are driving at is, by having a baby and giving them the ‘script, we’re giving them the opioid exposure. (The study) is looking at women who really haven’t had opioids in their life,” Smid says.

Potential implications

Smid says physicians need to understand their patients more fully, and whether they have a mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety, which may be negatively impacted by the use of opioids.

“The issue becomes, ‘are we treating pain from the delivery, or are we treating something else inadvertently?’,” Smid says. “Are we setting women, potentially, on the path of addiction?”

Smid says the medical community needs to do a better job of screening and treating moms for depression and anxiety.

And she says the net needs to be cast even wider. Smid says that Americans as a society need to create environments that are more supportive of new parents, both mothers, and fathers. Among those changes, Smid says, are supporting longer parental leave for both parents to ensure that moms aren’t left in social isolation.