Obstetrics/GynecologyBRIEF REPORT

Opioid Use in the Postpartum Period: Are We Prescribing Too Much?

Danielle Prentice, DO; Amanda Berry, DO; Linzi Stewart, DO; Heather Wilkins, PhD; Serdar Ural, MD; and Raymond Deiter, DO
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: October 25, 2019

Accepted: November 11, 2019

Published: August 5, 2020

J Osteopath Med; 120(10): 698-703

Context: The first exposure to opioids for many women of reproductive age follows childbirth. Current data show a significant correlation between the number of days supplied and continued use/abuse of opioids. The number of women with opioid dependency in pregnancy is steadily increasing, and opioid use is directly linked to an increase in maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality. However, there are no clear opioid-prescribing guidelines for the postpartum period.

Objectives: To compare the number of opioid pills prescribed with the number used by patients in the postpartum period.

Methods: Patients were recruited to this pilot study at the time of admission to the labor and delivery unit at a community hospital in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; 84 patients gave informed consent to participate. Medical records were reviewed to determine the number of opioids prescribed. Phone surveys were conducted 4 to 6 weeks after discharge to identify the number of opioids used during the postpartum period. Welch t test was used to determine P values.

Results: After exclusion criteria were applied, records of 23 patients with vaginal deliveries and 14 patients with cesarean sections were included in the study. Patients who were prescribed opioids after a vaginal delivery were prescribed significantly more pills than were used (P<.001); a mean of 10 opioid pills per patient remained unused. Patients prescribed opioids after cesarean section were also often prescribed more opioid pills than used (P<.05); a mean of 7.5 opioid pills per patient remained unused. Of 37 patients, only 2 disposed of unused opioid pills.

Conclusions: The data in this study show a clear example of overprescribing opioids after vaginal and cesarean deliveries leading to increased opioid pill availability within the community.

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