Opioid prescribing trends in postpartum women: a multicenter study

Karissa B. Sanchez Traun, Charles W. Schauberger, Luis D. Ramirez, Cresta W. Jones, Alisha F. Lindberg, Ricardo A. Molero Bravo, Tricia E. Wright, Benjamin D. Traun, Suzanne E. Peterson, Vania P. Rudolf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: The postpartum period can be a particularly vulnerable time for exposure to opioid medications, and there are currently no consensus guidelines for physicians to follow regarding opioid prescribing during this period. OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to evaluate inter- and intrahospital variability in opioid prescribing patterns in postpartum women and better understand the role of clinical variables in prescribing. STUDY DESIGN: Data were extracted from electronic medical records on 4248 patients who delivered at 6 hospitals across the United States from January 2016 through March 2016. The primary outcome of the study was postpartum opioid prescription at the time of hospital discharge. Age, parity, route of delivery, and hospital were analyzed individually and with multivariate analyses to minimize confounding factors. Statistical methods included χ2 to analyze frequency of opioid prescription by hospital, parity, tobacco use, delivery method, and laceration type. An analysis of variance was used to analyze morphine equivalent dose by hospital. RESULTS: The percentage of women prescribed postpartum opioids varied significantly by hospital, ranging from 27.6% to 70.9% (P <0.001). Oxycodone-acetaminophen was the most commonly prescribed medication (50.3%) with each hospital having its preferred opioid type. Median number of tablets prescribed ranged from 20 to 40 (P < .0001). Primiparous women were more likely to receive opioids than multiparous women when broken down by a parity of 1, 2, 3, 4, and ≥5 (52.8%, 48.0%, 47.6%, 40.1%, and 45.8%, respectively, P = .0005). Among women who had vaginal deliveries, opioid prescription rates were higher in women who experienced either a second-degree laceration (35.5%, P = .0002) or a third-/fourth-degree laceration (59.3%, P < .001). CONCLUSION: Postpartum opioid prescription rates vary widely among hospitals, but providers within the same hospital tend to follow similar prescribing trends. The variation in prescribing found in our study illustrates the need for clear consensus guidelines for postpartum pain management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)100055
Number of pages1
JournalAmerican journal of obstetrics & gynecology MFM
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2019 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


  • cesarean delivery
  • obstetrics
  • opioids
  • postpartum pain management
  • vaginal delivery


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