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05th Jun 2018

Mums who breastfeed after C-section are less likely to experience pain

Alison Bough

Mums who breastfeed their babies for at least eight weeks after a caesarean section are three times less likely to experience persistent pain, compared to those who breastfed for less than two months.

Breastfeeding after a C-section may help to manage pain, according to new research being presented at this weekend’s Euroanaesthesia Congress in Geneva (June 3-5).

C-sections account for around a quarter of all births in the UK, USA, and Canada, but at least one third of all births in Ireland. Chronic pain (lasting for more than three months) after C-section affects around 1 in 5 mothers. It is widely accepted that breast milk is the most important and appropriate nutrition in early life, with the WHO and HSE recommending exclusive breastfeeding up until six months of age. But, until now, little has been known about the effect of breastfeeding on a mother’s experience of chronic pain after C-section.

The study, by Dr Carmen Alicia Vargas Berenjeno and colleagues from Spain’s Hospital Universitario Nuestra Señora de Valme, included 185 mothers who underwent a C-section at the hospital between January 2015 and December 2016. Mums were interviewed about breastfeeding patterns and the level of chronic pain at the surgical site in the first 24 and 72 hours after C-section, and again four months later.

The researchers also looked at the effect of other variables on chronic pain including surgical technique, pain in the first 24-72 hours, maternal education and occupation, and anxiety during breastfeeding.

Almost all (87 percent) of the mothers in the study breastfed their babies, with over half (58 percent) reporting breastfeeding for two months or longer. Findings showed that around 1 in 4 (23 percent) of the mothers who breastfed for two months or less still experienced chronic pain in the surgical site four months post-op compared to just 8 percent of those who breastfed for two months or longer.

Dr Vargas Berenjeno says it’s another positive for breastfeeding:

“These preliminary results suggest that breastfeeding for more than two months protects against chronic post-caesarean pain, with a three-fold increase in the risk of chronic pain if breastfeeding is only maintained for two months or less. Our study provides another good reason to encourage women to breastfeed.”