DENVER -- The opioid epidemic is reaching new moms and pregnant women in Colorado, according to research that also found overdoses have caused more maternal deaths than car crashes, medical conditions and homicides.
This spike in maternal mortality in the state coincides with the increase of prescription drug abuse and overdose around the country and is a chilling reminder of the widespread impact of the opioid epidemic.
Denver7 spoke to new mom Lauren Beckos and Dr. Julie Gelman that treated her pain with a new pill free method used at Swedish Medical Center.
Doctors started using opioid-sparing alternatives in their maternity units following cesarean delivery. The non-opioid pain relief therapy includes placing a flexible catheter near the surgery site to administer a local anesthetic, offering better pain control than opioids alone and significantly reducing the need for opioids.
When Beckos went into labor, things didn't go as planned.
"She announced she was ready to come," said Beckos. “They were not quite sure that pushing would be a good idea."
Baby Abigail was not quite in the right position, so doctors would have to perform a C-section. Beckos had wanted to keep things as natural as possible.
"I didn't want to take any painkillers if we could do Tylenol or ibuprofen," said Beckos.
Lucky for her, Dr. Gelman, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Swedish Medical Center, had a pill-free option: a pump that drips numbing medication to the incision site replacing painkillers. It's a small tool, but it’s what Dr. Gelman hopes will be a huge help in fighting opioid abuse.
"Commonly they would be sent home on 30 Percocet. Some people more, some people less," said Gelman. "Sometimes they would come back to the doctor and they would need more pain medication, and the process can start from there."
It may be the reason, she said, opioid overdose is the leading causes of death for expecting and new moms in Colorado.
"These are real people. This is a real concern," said Gelman.
Dr. Gilman has only been using the pump for one year. She said, while the technology is not new, it will take time to see the effects on maternal death rates.
"Are opioids available? They are. Are they needing them? A lot less and some people not at all," said Gelman.
For Beckos, her post-C-section recovery gave her more focus on her baby, fewer side effects and of course no risk of addiction.
"I would say most people wouldn't even be thinking of it until you wake up and you’re like ok I need something to manage my pain. What are your options?" said Beckos.