Study: More Pregnant Women Are Filling Narcotic Prescriptions

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Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

A recent study published last week in Obstetrics and Gynecology unveiled startling evidence as to how sharply the number of opioid painkillers prescribed to pregnant women is rising. The New York Times highlighted the study, which said that out of 1.1 million pregnant women enrolled in Medicaid nationally, nearly 23 percent filled an opioid prescription in 2007, up from 18.5 percent in 2000. That number reflects the largest to date amount of opioid prescriptions among pregnant women, which has the potential to be alarming, considering the fact that risks to the developing fetus are still largely unknown.

According to The Times, the study was conducted by lead author Rishi J. Desai, a research fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and he said that although he expected the number of prescriptions for pregnant women to rise, “one in five women using opioids during pregnancy is definitely surprising.” His study’s results support many health experts’ belief that pregnant or not, Americans are simply pain-averse, and that is why many are now deciding to take opioids during pregnancy even though the drugs could potentially put developing fetuses at risk.

In addition, it’s also not just those relying on Medicaid who choose to fill the opioid prescriptions. The Times highlighted Sunday that while Medicaid covers the medical expenses for 45 percent of births in the United States, those privately insured are also taking the drugs. A study of 500,000 privately insured women conducted in February found that 14 percent were dispensed opioid painkillers at least once during pregnancy, and health experts continue to show concern about the rising numbers.

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