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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Iowa Research Examines Link Between Maternal Depression and Opioid Use

A new study from researchers at the University of Iowa shows that mothers diagnosed with postpartum depression and having undergone a Cesarean section are five times more likely to fill at least two opioid prescriptions in the three months following labor than are mothers without those conditions.

Dr. Kelli Ryckman, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Iowa College of Public Health led the study, which was conducted by members of the Iowa Perinatal Health Research Collaborative.

“There’s been a lot of talk about the opioid crisis, but mothers who have delivered and get opioids for pain are underrepresented in the discussion about opioid misuse,” Dr. Ryckman says. “Yet they are at increased risk.”

Dr. Ryckman and her colleagues looked at the information available in a statewide insurance claims database managed by the University of Iowa Center for Public Health Statistics. All the records in the database are stripped of identifying information to protect the subjects’ privacy. From there, they carved out a cohort of 19,000 mothers who gave birth in Iowa between 2004 and 2015.

By matching a patient’s depression diagnosis with that patient’s pharmacy claims, the researchers looked at the relationship between maternal depression and the number of opioid prescription fills.

The findings — which will be presented during a February meeting of the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine — include:

“We suggest there is universal screening for perinatal depression that can identify women with probable depression who are at an increased risk for opioid misuse or opioid-related maternal mortality,” Dr. Ryckman says.