The physicians of Axia Women’s Health have pioneered new ways to help women return to health following c-section surgeries. We recently sat down with Dr. Kimberly Bridges-White from Garden State OB/GYN to discuss her team’s use of the ERAS program, which helps new mothers better prepare for surgery, recover more quickly, and manage pain without the use of opioids.
The ERAS program – Enhanced Recovery After Surgery – is a proven protocol used for women undergoing a cesarean section procedure. The goal of the protocol is to make recovery from the c-section quicker and less painful so new mothers can focus on a more comfortable healing period after giving birth. This is accomplished through making protocol changes prior to surgery, adjusting the use of anesthesia during the procedure, and closely managing pain after the procedure.
There are two key components of the program:
Other surgical protocols require strict fasting, which reduces energy and nutrition needed for recovery. As an example, if you are a coffee drinker, the lack of caffeine can give you an uncomfortable headache after surgery. With ERAS, you can still enjoy coffee or tea and enter your procedure without any kind of shock to your system. This process is more supportive of what your body needs and is accustomed to, and allows for a healthier recovery.
In addition to the inherent risks of opioid use, these drugs can hinder your body’s recovery after surgery by disrupting your focus and diminishing your energy level. Opioids can also slow down bowel function, reduce appetite and create feelings of nausea, which makes it very difficult to care for a newborn.
The opioid crisis in our country is a driving factor; but additionally, narcotics create disproportionate risks for women over men. From 1999 to 2016, deaths from prescription opioid overdoses increased 596% for women compared to a 312% increase for men. In addition, studies show that women are more likely to develop dependency and addiction from smaller amounts of opioids in a shorter timeframe than men. In general, we’re able to help women recover faster and manage their pain just as well through other means. Because our patients enter surgery in a more natural state, they are able to recover much easier without the need or desire for stronger pain medication.
Because the ERAS program can help speed up recovery, most women are able to be discharged two days after delivery. The option to remain in the hospital for the full 3-day stay is available, but most women appreciate being able to return home sooner and focus on their baby in a more comfortable environment.
Garden State OB/GYN does not recommend a c-section unless it is the safest delivery method to ensure the mother’s and baby’s health. Our team’s primary c-section rate is one of the lowest in the State of New Jersey. We always encourage our patients to attempt vaginal delivery before leaning on a surgical outcome.
When we know a c-section is going to be the safest delivery method, most of our mothers-to-be are perfect candidates for the ERAS program. Each patient should speak with their physician to discuss this option in more detail. Diabetic patients should not participate in the ERAS program because they would have a negative reaction to the carbohydrate treatment. A patient with severe pre-eclampsia would not be a good candidate either. However, most healthy mothers would be excellent candidates and would benefit greatly from the ERAS program.