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Are Opioids Being Prescribed to Women Following a Cesarean Section at Too High of a Rate?

By: Cohen, Placitella & Roth @ Sep 13, 2017

Recovery after a cesarean section, or c-section, is no doubt a painful procedure. According to the Mayo Clinic, the c-section incision during the recovery process can be painful, and discomfort and fatigue are common. As such, the clinic advises women to seek pain relief. But how much pain relief is too much? A new study sheds light on the fact that doctors may be over-prescribing opioids to women post-c-section.

The Research

The newest study, while is published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology and summarized by an article in The New York Times, tracked pill and prescription use in 179 women discharged after delivery by c-section. The study specifically looked at how much of a prescription the women were given, of what drug, and how much of the drug was used in the days and weeks following delivery.

Researchers discovered that on average, women were discharged from the hospital with approximately 30 pills, each of which contained five milligrams of either hydrocodone or oxycodone.

Those who used the most pills post-discharge were those who:

  • Had been administered more than two times the amount of medicine during the time that they were hospitalized;
  • Were more likely to have smoked during pregnancy; and
  • Were more likely to carry public health insurance.

However, outside of these three factors, the women who used the most drugs post-hospital release did not differ from those who used fewer drugs in terms of BMI, depression, education, or other characteristics.

Nurse Midwives Prescribe Fewer Drugs

The article in the Times also revealed another interesting fact about opioid prescriptions and childbirth: nurse midwives prescribe half as much medicine (overall) than do traditional doctors, and 75 percent of nurse midwife patients who had been given drugs had unused medicine at the conclusion of two weeks.

But doctors say it’s not so simple. One doctor, and the lead author of the study, told reporters that about a quarter of patients finished their pills entirely and still reported having pain. The doctor explained that rather than giving everyone an opioid prescription who undergoes a c-section, or denying drugs altogether, an individualized, case-by-case basis approach should be implemented.

The Opioid Epidemic in America

Opioids are extremely addictive, and the United States has seen a surge in the rates of opioid-related deaths, and overall opioid addiction. While there are, of course, illegal sources for obtaining opioids, many people who suffer addiction or death as a result of opioids often get their first taste of the drug via prescription. As such, there has been criticism of doctors who offer opioids to patients for minor surgeries.

A c-section could in no way be called “minor”; however, doctors have a high duty of care to patients post-surgery, and should think twice before prescribing highly addictive and dangerous drugs that have the potential to alter the course of a woman’s–and a family’s–life.

Contact Our Law Firm If You’ve Been Affected

If you are someone who has been affected by an opioid prescription or who has lost a loved one due to opioids, our lawyers may be able to help you. We can investigate your case to determine whether or not a doctor was negligent in prescribing the pills, and if so, if medical malpractice occurred. We can also help you to understand your legal options and rights moving forward.

To learn more, contact our talented Philadelphia medical malpractice attorneys online or by phone today. A consultation is offered free of charge.

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