NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Plenty of women have cesarean sections and when they do, experts say some doctors prescribe too many opioids while others prescribe too few.
A new study happening now and Vanderbilt University might solve the problem.
Elliana Smith was one of 1.3 million babies born annually in the United States by cesarean section.
"It's a major surgery and you have to heal from it," said Tavia Smith, Elliana’s mother.
Doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center prescribed Tavia Smith opioids to use for five days.
"I took the medicine as prescribed and I may have had one left over," said Smith.
She is one of the lucky ones because the reality is most women are over-prescribed. Many others are under-prescribed and both situations are problematic.
"We haven't had a whole lot of very thoughtful consideration about how much do people really need," said Dr. Sarah Osmundson with Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Osmundson is leading a new study to fix that.
They'll be using blue-tooth prescription bottles with "smart caps" to count the number of pills recovering moms actually use.
Everything from postpartum depression to smoking can make a difference.
"We have some surveys about pain and activities of daily living," said Osmundson.
The issue is complicated, and the timing is crucial.
Opioids are needed after surgery, but they're also killing people across the country at an unprecedented rate.
"Anything we can do to really get it right in terms of how to prescribe to this population of people has the potential to affect vast numbers of people," said Osmundson.
In the meantime, Osmundson recommended new and expecting moms talk to their doctors about their needs.
"Don't be afraid to advocate for yourself," said Osmundson.
"Talk to your doctors about it, making sure you have what you need and communicating if you're still in pain,” said Smith. “I think this is a good way to make sure that everybody is taking care of."
Vanderbilt University Medical Center will have 400 women participating in the study.
The hope is that by the middle of next year doctors will have a model telling them exactly how many opioids to prescribe to new moms based on their specific needs.