It’s not like the women have to take all the pills, so what’s
the big deal? Well, the thing is that while opioids can be effective for
managing post-surgical pain and are considered safe-ish
for nursing mothers, they are also highly addictive. Ever head of opium? Yup,
opioids have an opium-like effect and, like opium, can get you hooked fast.
“These are addictive medications,” says
Dr. Brian Bateman, chief of obstetric anesthesia at Brigham and Women’s
Hospital and lead author of two of the studies. “For some patients, being
exposed, even in the setting of appropriate treatment for pain, may precipitate
an affinity for the drug that leads to subsequent chronic use and even abuse.”
About 84 percent of the women who filled their prescriptions
had leftover pills. Most of the women only used about half of their
prescription, but those who got more pills tended to take more pills. Why is
“When physicians prescribe a lot of opioid medication,
patients feel as though they should be consuming a lot of medication,” Bateman
Oddly enough, taking more pills didn’t seem to result in
better pain relief. In other words, women who took more pills weren’t more satisfied
with their pain control than women who took less pills.
So, the question remains, what happened to all the leftover
pills? About 95 percent of those who had leftover pills kept them instead of disposing of them. That, of course, increases the chances of them getting
into the hands of children or someone for whom they were not intended.
There is some good news, though. One of the
studies found that women who discussed the use of opioids with their doctors
tended to go home with smaller prescriptions and didn’t need refills.
The takeaway? Be a part of the decision-making
process with your doctors when it comes to pain medication after having a C-section to avoid going home
with too many opioid pills and keep in mind that you have other options. "NSAIDs
and acetaminophen are good pain relievers, and they don't have the same
side-effect profile and the same risks that opioids have," said Bateman.