Opioid Abuse Contributing to High Maternal Death Rate

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Opioid Abuse Contributing to High Maternal Death Rate

In most prosperous countries, maternal mortality has been declining due to advancements in medicine and technology. However, in the United States, the opposite has shown to be true. The reason? Opioid abuse.

According to the World Health Organization, maternal mortality is defined as:

“…the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management but not from accidental or incidental causes.”

The Texas Department of State Health recently issued a report that analyzed the correlation between opioid abuse and infant deaths in the state, during or just after childbirth.

“Review of actual case records (including postmortem toxicology and police reports) showed that the majority of these maternal deaths involved licit or illicit prescription opioids.”

The reported stated that the most common causes of maternal death were “cardiac events, overdose by licit or illicit prescription drugs, and hypertensive disorders.”

In all U.S. states, including Washington D.C, but excluding California and Texas (states privy to separate studies) the maternal death rate increased by over 26% between 2008-2014. In Texas, the rate has doubled since 2000 to nearly 36 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2014.

California stood alone as its mortality rate declined, with just 15 deaths per 100,000 in 2014. That is still high, however, when compared with other medically-advanced societies. Consider Germany, which suffered only 4 deaths per 100,000 live birth in 2014. In comparison, the rate in California was more than 3 times as high.

In addition to opioids, other factors contributing to the maternal death rate include chronic diseases, racial bias in healthcare, a lack of affordable healthcare, and cuts to women’s health care just as Planned Parenthood.

Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is also a huge problem. According to Medline, neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS, is defined as:

“…a group of problems that occur in a newborn who was exposed to addictive opiate drugs while in the mother’s womb” and may occur when a pregnant woman takes drugs such as heroin, codeine, oxycodone (Oxycontin), methadone or buprenorphine.”

From 2008-2012, the rates of NAS also steadily increased.


This new finding is more evidence of the havoc that opioid abuse and addiction is wreaking on the United States. It’s not just isolated adult overdoses – the lives of mothers and the newly born are also at stake.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A. Psychology

Primary Source:


Related: Can Personalized Medicine Improve Addiction Treatment?

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