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Chronic pain, pain severity and analgesia use in Australian women of reproductive age

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 19:33 authored by Alison MillerAlison Miller, Kristy Sanderson, Raimondo BrunoRaimondo Bruno, Monique BreslinMonique Breslin, Amanda NeilAmanda Neil

Background: The increasing prevalence and adverse outcomes associated with opioid analgesia use in women of reproductive age have become a significant public health issue internationally, with use during pregnancy potentially affecting maternal and infant health outcomes.

Objective: This study aims to provide national estimates of chronic pain, pain severity and analgesia use in Australian women of reproductive age by pregnancy status.

Method: Data were obtained from the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2011–12 National Health Survey (n = 20,426). Weighting was applied to sample data to obtain population estimates. For this study data were analysed for pregnant (n = 166, N = 192,617) and non-pregnant women (n = 4710, N = 5,256,154) of reproductive age (15–49 years).

Results: Chronic or reoccurring pain was reported in 5.1% of pregnant women and 9.7% of non-pregnant women, and 0.7% and 2.6% of pregnant and non-pregnant women reported recent opioid analgesia use respectively. Moderate-to-very severe pain was more common in pregnant than non-pregnant women taking opioid analgesics, and no pain and very mild-to-mild pain in non-pregnant women.

Conclusion: Approximately 1 in 20 pregnant Australian women have chronic or reoccurring pain. Opioid analgesia was used by around 1% of Australian pregnant women during a two-week period, with use associated with moderate-to-very severe pain. Given that the safety of many analgesic medications in pregnancy remains unknown, pregnant women and health professionals require accurate, up-to-date information on the risks and benefits of analgesic use during pregnancy. Further evidence on the decision-making processes of pregnant women with pain should assist health professionals maximise outcomes for mothers and infants.


Publication title

Women and Birth






Menzies Institute for Medical Research


Elsevier BV

Place of publication


Rights statement

Copyright 2018 Published by Elsevier Ltd on behalf of Australian College of Midwives

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Women's and maternal health

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