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Study: Overdose risk increases after childbirth for women with addiction

A new study shows that women with an opioid addiction are at high risk of an overdose during the year that follows childbirth (Source: “For addicted women, the year after childbirth is the deadliest,” Tribune News Service via Canton Repository, Sep 3, 2018).

The study, published last month, tracked more than 4,000 Massachusetts women with an opioid addiction for a year before and a year after delivery. The results confirmed for the first time what many practitioners had observed: Opioid overdose deaths decline during pregnancy and peak in the seven to 12 months postpartum.

Since the study only included Massachusetts residents (the state with the lowest uninsured rate in the nation), lack of insurance following childbirth was not a contributing factor. Even so, postpartum gaps in opioid treatment, such as the discontinuation of addiction medications, may have contributed to some overdose deaths, according to the study.

And it’s not just from overdose deaths. A 2012 analysis of vital statistics reports from 17 states (Ohio was not included in the study) shows that postpartum women are also at heightened risk for suicide and homicide by a partner.

Growing evidence suggests that women should receive continuous medical attention during what is now called the “fourth trimester” — a period lasting at least a year after childbirth. Even for women without an opioid addiction, the likelihood of severe depression soars. Research indicates that nearly 15 percent of all mothers suffer postpartum depression. For minority women and those living in poverty, the rate can more than double.