ACOG Green Journal: Racial Disparities in Postpartum Pain Management


OBJECTIVE: To evaluate racial and ethnic differences in women’s postpartum pain scores, inpatient opioid administration, and discharge opioid prescriptions.

METHODS: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of all deliveries at a single high-volume tertiary care center from December 1, 2015, through November 30, 2016. Women were included if they self-identified as non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, or Hispanic; were at least 18 years of age; and did not have documented allergies to nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs or morphine. Medical records were queried for three outcomes: 1) patient-reported postpartum pain score (on a scale of 0–10) at discharge (dichotomized less than 5 or 5 or higher), 2) inpatient opioid dosing during postpartum hospitalization (reported as morphine milligram equivalents [MMEs] per postpartum day), and 3) receipt of an opioid prescription at discharge. The associations between each of these outcomes and maternal race–ethnicity were assessed using multivariable logistic regression models with random effects to account for clustering by discharge physician. A sensitivity analysis was conducted in which women of different race and ethnicity were matched using propensity scores.

RESULTS: A total of 9,900 postpartum women were eligible for analysis. Compared with non-Hispanic white women, Hispanic and non-Hispanic black women had significantly greater odds of reporting a pain score of 5 or higher (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 1.61, 95% 1.26–2.06 and aOR 2.18, 95% 1.63–2.91, respectively) but received significantly fewer inpatient MMEs/d (adjusted β −5.03, 95% CI −6.91 to −3.15, and adjusted β −3.54, 95% CI −5.88 to −1.20, respectively). Additionally, Hispanic and non-Hispanic black women were significantly less likely to receive an opioid prescription at discharge (aOR 0.80, 95% CI 0.67 to −0.96 and aOR 0.78, 95% CI 0.62–0.98) compared with non-Hispanic white women. Results of the propensity score analysis largely corroborated those of the primary analysis, with the exception that the difference in inpatient MMEs/d between non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic black women did not reach statistical significance.

CONCLUSION: Hispanic and non-Hispanic black women experience disparities in pain management in the postpartum setting that cannot be explained by less perceived pain.

Reference: Badreldin, Nevert MD, MS; Grobman, William A. MD, MBA; Yee, Lynn M. MD, MPH. Racial Disparities in Postpartum Pain Management. American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology. 134.6 (Nov 2019). DOI: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000003561

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