Do C-Sections put Women at Risk of Opioid Dependence?



Do C-Sections put Women at Risk of Opioid Dependence?

Cesarean section delivery can be a lifesaving surgery for mother and baby through the procedure itself is serious and carries a significant healing time. The use of post-op opioid painkillers is not uncommon and was once a highly recommended way to manage pain for the months it took for tissues and organs to regenerate and reconnect. However, a new study looks into the use of opioids after C-sections and how it impacts a patient’s healing time and potential opioid dependence, intending to minimize overprescribing to cut down on leftover pills.


C-Section Stats

  • In 2019, 31.7% of all deliveries were by Cesarean

  • Approximately 80% of patients fill opioid prescriptions after Caesarean birth

  • Only 54% of women fill opioid prescriptions after birth

  • Once prescriptions are filled, the median number of tablets use is 10, while the mean quantity prescribed is 30 tablets

  • About 20 opioid tablets are left unused on average

  • The amount of opioids prescribed tends to influence how many pills are used

  • The risk of chronic opioid use after C-section is about .12-.65%, but the absolute number of women exposed to opioids after childbirth who become chronic users is very high

  • Tobacco use, public insurance, and depression are commonly associated with chronic opioid use after childbirth

  • The rate of persistent opioid use after regular delivery is 1.7%, while Cesarean delivery is 2.2%

The Negative Effects of Overprescribing

Research shows that about 53% of those who misuse opioids prescriptions report that they acquired their last pill from a friend or family member. About 77% of people prescribed opioids leave them in unlocked locations easily accessible by others in the home. Unused medication is a big factor that leads to nonmedical use by both patients and those with access, which increases the risk of addiction overall.


Since the release of new opioid prescribing guidelines in 2017, medical providers have been encouraged to strictly limit the number of prescriptions they give to patients, and when prescribing opioids, to only give as many pills necessary for the patient to not experience acute pain. The use of alternative painkillers is suggested, such as acetaminophen, naproxen, and others.


Rethinking Opioid Use after Childbirth

Current data is unclear on whether providing opioid pain management is a net positive or negative for patients. While under treatment of pain post-C-section can lead to postpartum depression, poor infant care, and difficulty breastfeeding, the data is limited. Some studies suggest patients who took fewer opioids pre-discharge also reported less opioid intake in the following weeks. The method of pain management post-Caesarean may demand a more individualistic approach to reduce overprescribing, often resulting in leftover medications around the home, posing a danger to family members.


Middlesex Recovery wants to help parents who have been exposed to nonmedical use of opioids after expecting a child in a private and non-judgmental clinic with compassionate and specialized medical professionals. Find the nearest location and call or emails us today to learn more about our treatment services.