SALT LAKE CITY — Among the legislation the U.S. House of Representatives passed Friday to curb the opioid crisis was a bill designed to address this statistic: Utah leads the nation in opioid prescriptions for pregnant women.
“Sadly, the impact this has had on Utah has been overwhelming,” Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, said on the House floor about the opioid epidemic.
“Across the nation, one in five women receive an opioid prescription during pregnancy,” Curtis went on to say. “In Utah, that number is doubled.”
Curtis’ POPPY bill, or Protecting Against Opioid Prescription-abuse During Prenatal Year Study Act, seeks to study and increase public awareness about Opioid Use Disorder During Pregnancy.
“Health care experts, providers, and patients agree: there is simply too much we don’t know about why pregnant women are being prescribed opioids and what possible alternatives might provide better health outcomes for mothers and their newborn children,” Curtis said in a statement.
The POPPY Study Act, or H.R. 5646, passed the House as an amendment to a large package of bills designed to fight the opioid epidemic. The legislation now heads to the Senate.
In addition to increasing research on why opioids are being prescribed during pregnancy, Curtis said his bill will provide more data on how opioids are misused by pregnant women and what types of non-opiate pain management therapies would be effective and safe during pregnancy.
“Utah, actually, is the highest state in terms of prescribing for pregnant women,” Lisa Nichols, the executive director of community health and Intermountain Healthcare, said about opioids.
Nichols said she supports the new legislation and hopes it provides more information about why opioids are prescribed to expecting mothers, how it could be done differently and how to best provide treatment to pregnant women who are abusing opioids.
“Everything a woman does during her pregnancy affects her fetus,” Nichols said.
As part of raising public awareness, Nichols said the big message for pregnant women is to not be afraid to seek treatment.
“They shouldn’t feel ashamed. They should come forward and that’s the right thing to do for themselves and their child,” she said. “It’s not a condition of moral weakness.”