Data showing fewer moms accepting opioids following C-sections

Whether it's wisdom teeth or a C-section, over-prescribing opioid medications to control pain after surgery has fueled the opioid crisis.

So now doctors are finding innovative ways to reduce use and abuse - and even new moms are getting on board.

When it came time to deliver by C-section, new mom Kristen Winger, for example, opted against opioids for post-surgery pain.

"I feel like having a baby is something I want to be completely present therefore. I don't want to feel funny," she said.

Opioids can cause drowsiness, dizziness, and nausea. Instead, she took acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

"If you're very sleepy or sedated we find that a lot of times we can't even necessarily leave the baby in the room because the mother's got to be awake and alert," says Cleveland Clinic Dr. Eric Chiang. 

Giving mom a choice about taking opioids is a new protocol at Cleveland Clinic - and data shows many women prefer to avoid them.

"Almost half of the people that have a C-section don't really need the opioid at all, but there are about half that do, which is totally fine," Dr. Chiang says.

Doctors are reducing the number of opioid pills new moms take home, too. Now, women, who need opioids to control pain go home with five pills on average instead of twenty.

"Keeping those medicines off the street is going to help hopefully turn the tide. About 80 percent of heroin addicts started with prescription medicine, and the important fact there is that they weren't necessarily prescribed the medicine but they obtained it," Dr. Chiang says.

Kristen says her pain was tolerable and she was better able to care for her son, and encourages others to give it a try.

"You might surprise yourself. You might think, 'Hey, I'm stronger than I thought I was and I can do it without narcotics."

Dr. Chiang does say everyone's pain tolerance is different and if non-opioid medications aren't enough to control pain after a C-section, opioid medicines are always still available.