Should Your Post–C-Section Plan Include Non-Opioid Pain-Management Options?

Photo: Stocksy/MaaHoo Studio
When you think of the opioid epidemic in America, does your mind immediately conjure the image of a new mom cooing over her baby? Probably not, but unfortunately, they're some of the easiest targets of the addictive narcotics—especially the mamas among the 1.3 million who have cesarean section deliveries every year in the United States.

In 2016, three million individuals who underwent surgery in the US became frequent users of opioids for up to six months after their time under the knife, and because a C-section is a surgical procedure, women are often given the drugs to help with post-operative pain. One study found that 75 percent of mothers who endured a C-section had plenty of leftover pills, making it easier to misuse the drugs and become addicted in the future. Because of this, some experts contend that it's important to be aware of non-opioid pain-management alternatives.

Plan Against Pain recently conducted a survey for Pacira Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (a company that aims to reduce opioid-reliant strategies) of 1,452 mothers and found that 74 percent of those who delivered via C-section felt a non-opioid option following childbirth was appealing. But, only 11 percent of these women discussed an alternative plan with their doctor—something Alyssa Dweck, OB-GYN and co-author of The Complete A to Z for Your V, hopes will change.

74 percent of mothers who delivered via C-section felt a non-opioid option following childbirth was appealing. But, only 11 percent of these women discussed an alternative plan with their doctor.

"Patients might be hesitant to bring up this topic up with their doctor for various reasons. First, some just bestow this responsibility and decision-making to their doctors and trust that their doctor knows what’s best for them," she says. "Others feel it might be a burden to take the doctor’s time or feel ashamed that they are 'too wimpy' to deal with pain."

But, if you broach the subject with your doctor, you're more likely to avoid being part of the 51 percent of women the survey found are automatically prescribed opioids after C-section birth. Furthermore, Dr. Dweck says the non-opioid options—and even totally natural methods like Lamaze breathing and mindfulness training—can help ease your pain in a less addictive manner.

"After surgery, I typically recommend over-the-counter or prescription-strength non-narcotic, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories to reduce swelling and relieve pain," Dr. Dweck says. "And during a C-section, I support the use of a long-acting numbing injection in the incision or sensitive layer of tissue, which can reduce pain for up to 72 hours and minimize the need for other post-operative painkillers. Non-opioid choices help patients with earlier hospital discharge and get back to normal activities more quickly."

Really, all it takes is starting the conversation with your doc to determine what you prefer for your body. And with some minor changes to your post–C-section plan, you can ensure the only thing you're addicted to post-delivery is sharing pictures of your baby's chubby cheeks on Instagram.

This cocktail is infused with pain-relieving herbs. Or, find out why painful cavity fillings might soon be a thing of the past.

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