A recent study by the University of Michigan unveiled some alarming statistics concerning the role prescription opioid painkillers play in many new mothers’ post-pregnancy experience. Within the last decade, nearly half of new moms received a doctor’s prescription for opioids before or shortly after giving birth. Among the women who had their prescriptions filled, about 2% showed signs of “persistent” opioid use, which the study’s authors defined as two subsequent refills within one year after the delivery. Though 2% doesn’t sound like a high number, it is concerning when you consider the number of women who deliver children each year.
If you are pregnant or considering trying to get pregnant, learning about the risks of opioids and understanding all-natural remedies for managing postpartum pain without these medications can help you avoid going on to develop a substance use disorder. Here’s what you need to know.
What Are Opioids?
Opioids are a class of drugs that derive from the opium poppy plant. Doctors frequently prescribe opiates, including codeine, hydrocodone, morphine and oxycodone, to help patients manage pain after surgeries, injuries and specific medical procedures. When you use opioids under a doctor’s supervision for the exact length of time your doctor prescribed, they are generally safe to use. However, opioids have a high potential for addiction, especially for people who use opioids for longer periods.
Why Do People Develop Opioid Addictions?
Opioid drugs are effective at treating pain because they create a flood of artificial feel-good neurotransmitters called endorphins. Not only do the endorphins help mute the sensation of pain, but they also create a sense of euphoria.
Over time, opioid use can cause your brain to depend on the synthetic endorphins. The longer you take opioids, the higher the likelihood becomes that your brain will stop producing natural endorphins on its own. You will eventually notice that it takes higher and higher doses of opioids to achieve the same pleasant sensations. This phenomenon is known as drug tolerance.
You can develop a high tolerance to a drug without necessarily being addicted. Signs of addiction include emotional and behavioral changes and experiencing intense cravings for the opioid when you are not using it. If you feel as if you cannot think or function normally when you’re sober, or you continue taking the drugs even when they are significantly disrupting your life, you may be addicted.
Ways to Manage Postpartum Pain Without Opioids
If you are concerned that you might become part of the post-pregnancy addiction statistics after welcoming a new child into the world, you can learn how to get a handle on pain without resorting to these drugs. First, talk to your doctor and tell them your concerns about using opioid pain medications. Make sure they do not prescribe opioids to you.
Safe, natural pain relief approaches you can explore include:
- Massage therapy
- Regular exercise
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Eating anti-inflammatory foods
- Stress alleviation and self-care
Addiction Treatment for Women
At Canyon Crossing, we understand the unique needs of women in addiction recovery, and have structured a single-gender treatment program tailored to addressing the root causes of substance dependence that allows women to live rich, fulfilling lives without substance misuse. To learn more and verify your insurance coverage, please reach out to us today.