While opioid medications are usually prescribed to women following a caesarean section (C-section) birth, new research indicates that many more than needed are prescribed to patients, increasing the potential for misuse.
Researchers looked at the records of 720 women that received a C-section at one of 6 hospitals across the country. About 85% of them filled an opioid prescription after discharge. Although the women, on average, were prescribed 40 pills, on average, they only used about 20 pills, according to results published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology. On average, 15 pills were left over. And when the women were interviewed for the study, 95% of them said they still had the extra pills.
The results also showed that women who received a higher number of opioid pills didn’t see any better improvement in their pain score than those who were prescribed fewer pills. Also, the women who received higher doses had more side effects related to the medication.
A separate study in the same issue of the journal found that when women are provided with information about expected opioid use after a C-section and how long pain typically takes to subside, on average, they would only choose to be prescribed about 20 pills. Researchers noted this kind of shared decision-making could be a way to curb opioid overprescribing in this population.
Jonathan Block is MedShadow’s content editor. He has previously worked for Psychiatry Advisor, Modern Healthcare, Health Reform Week and The Pink Sheet.