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New persistent opioid use after childbirth


Objective — To examine factors associated with new persistent opioid use after childbirth.

Methods — We conducted a population-based cohort study of individuals who initiated opioid therapy within 7 days of discharge from hospital after delivery between September 1, 2013, and September 30, 2021. The primary outcome was new persistent opioid use, which was defined as one or more prescriptions for an opioid within 90 days of the first postpartum prescription and one or more subsequent opioid prescriptions in the 91-365 days afterward. We used multivariable logistic regression to assess patient-, pregnancy-, and prescription-related factors associated with new persistent opioid use after delivery.

Results — We identified 118,694 unique deliveries after which opioids were initiated, including 99,399 cesarean (83.7%) and 19,295 vaginal (16.3%) deliveries. Among mothers who initiated an opioid after delivery, 1,282 (10.8/1,000 deliveries) met our definition of new persistent opioid use in the subsequent year. Rates of new persistent opioid use were appreciably higher after vaginal (16.0/1,000) compared with cesarean (9.8/1,000) deliveries. Each additional 30 morphine milligram equivalents in the initial opioid prescription was associated with an increased risk of new persistent use after cesarean (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 1.06, 95% CI 1.04-1.08) and vaginal (aOR 1.05, 95% CI 1.02-1.08) delivery. A concomitant benzodiazepine prescription after cesarean delivery was associated with a markedly increased risk of persistent opioid use (aOR 2.69, 95% CI 1.60-4.52).

Conclusion — Among people who filled an opioid prescription after delivery, about 1% displayed evidence of persistent opioid use in the subsequent year. Initial prescriptions for large quantities of opioids and a concurrent benzodiazepine prescription may be important modifiable risk factors to prevent new persistent opioid use after delivery.



Zipursky JS, Everett K, Calzavara A, Gomes T, Juurlink DN. Obstet Gynecol. 2023; Nov 2 [Epub ahead of print].

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