Avoiding opioids after labor

Published: Dec. 16, 2020 at 8:07 AM EST
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About one-third of pregnant women will give birth by c-section this year. Many of them will go home with powerful pain pills after delivering their babies, which may affect their interactions. But there are alternatives to opioids that can help women recover faster and feel less pain.

A study from Vanderbilt has found that one out of ten women who had a vaginal delivery and one out of four who had a c-section filled a second opioid prescription after giving birth.

“Increasing number of prescriptions was associated with increased rate of these serious outcomes associated with opioid use,” stated Sarah Osmundson, MD, MS, an assistant professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Outcomes like addiction, overdose, and even death. So, what can women do to reduce their need for opioids during and after delivery?

Dr. Osmundson continued, “There are some people that have used injections into the c-section site directly, so like lidocaine injections.”

These injections have been shown to reduce opioid consumption by 78 percent. For vaginal delivery, over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen and Tylenol have dropped opioid use in the hospital by 40 percent. And a study out of Brazil has found warm showers and exercises were effective in reducing pain and anxiety during labor.

Other things that can help to reduce pain during labor and limit the need for opioids, are breathing exercises and muscle relaxation techniques. Some hospitals even offer massage therapy with essential oils to ease pain.

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