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Black, Hispanic women report more postpartum pain but receive less opioid medication

Disparities in pain management affect black and Hispanic women

Non-Hispanic black and Hispanic women were significantly more likely to report postpartum pain scores ranging from five to 10 when compared to non-Hispanic white women.

Despite reporting higher pain scores, black and Hispanic women received significantly fewer morphine milligram equivalents (a measurement of opioids) than white patients and were significantly less likely to receive a prescription for an opioid at postpartum discharge.

“Our study shows black and Hispanic women experience disparities in pain management in the postpartum setting,” said Dr. Nevert Badreldin, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a Northwestern Medicine physician. “These disparities cannot be explained by less perceived pain.”

The study was published Nov. 6 in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Following delivery, women commonly utilize pain medication to manage pain associated with cramping, vaginal lacerations, surgical and musculoskeletal pain.

The reasons for the disparities are likely complex, Badreldin said. “One way to address them would be to encourage more standardized approaches to postpartum pain management,” she said.

“Acknowledging the presence of racial and ethnic disparities in postpartum pain management is the first step to addressing why it exists and how we can stop it,” she said.

The study looked at a retrospective cohort study of 9,900 deliveries at a large academic medical center from Dec. 1, 2015, through Nov. 30, 2016.

Other Northwestern authors are Dr. Lynn Lee and Dr. William Grobman. 

The research was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development grant NICHD K12 HD050121-11 and by the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, grant number UL1TR001422, both of the National Institutes of Health. The study also was supported by the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine Health Policy Award.