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Study Reveals Pregnancy-Associated Deaths Involving Opioids More Than Doubled

Alison Gemmill, PhD
Alison Gemmill, PhD

STONY BROOK, NY, November 5, 2018 – The opioid crisis in the United States appears to be gravely affecting more pregnant and postpartum women. In a study of pregnancy-associated deaths of women from 2007 to 2016, researchers found that mortality involving opioids either during pregnancy or up to one year post-pregnancy more than doubled during that time. The study, the first of its kind, is published online in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.


According to lead author Alison Gemmill, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor in the Department of Family, Population and Preventive Medicine and the Program in Public Health at Stony Brook University, the findings are similar to trends in opioid-related mortality in the general population.


The researchers – who used data from 22 states and the District of Columbia — discovered that the increase in opioid-associated deaths was more pronounced in white women compared to non-Hispanic black women, despite black women’s higher risk of pregnancy-associated mortality due to any cause. The data also suggest that the rise over the 10-year period was driven by increases in deaths due to heroin or synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl.


Gemmill and colleagues state that more interventions are urgently needed to reverse these concerning trends.




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Stony Brook University is going beyond the expectations of what today’s public universities can accomplish. Since its founding in 1957, this young university has grown to become a flagship as one of only four University Center campuses in the State University of New York (SUNY) system with more than 26,000 students and 2,600 faculty members, and 18 NCAA Division I athletic programs. Our faculty have earned numerous prestigious awards, including the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Indianapolis Prize for animal conservation, Abel Prize and the inaugural Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics. The University offers students an elite education with an outstanding return on investment: U.S. News & World Report ranks Stony Brook among the top 50 public universities in the nation. Its membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU) places Stony Brook among the top 62 research institutions in North America. As part of the management team of Brookhaven National Laboratory, the University joins a prestigious group of universities that have a role in running federal R&D labs. Stony Brook University is a driving force in the region’s economy, generating nearly 60,000 jobs and an annual economic impact of more than $4.6 billion. Our state, country and world demand ambitious ideas, imaginative solutions and exceptional leadership to forge a better future for all. The students, alumni, researchers and faculty of Stony Brook University are prepared to meet this challenge.

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