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Birth drugs 'hamper' breastfeeding

2nd September 2009

A woman’s ability to breastfeed her baby may be hampered by drugs used to treat bleeding after birth.

breastfeeding1

From analysing data on 48,000 women, researchers from Swansea University suggest that the drugs may impede milk production and that painkillers may also have a similar effect.

Writing in the journal BJOG, the Swansea team indicate that the findings may help offer an explanation to the limited success in trying to increase rates of breastfeeding in the UK.

In the UK only 45% of babies receive only breast milk just a week after birth, but the Department of Health recommendation is for babies to be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life because of benefits it offers to both mother and baby.

In their study, the Swansea team found use of the drugs oxytocin or ergometrine to cut the risk of haemorrhage was associated with an overall 7% decline in the proportion who started breastfeeding within 48 hours of giving birth.

Among women who were not given the drugs, 65.5% started breastfeeding within 48 hours of giving birth. But among those given oxytocin the breastfeeding rate was 59.1%. Among those who were given an additional injection of ergometrine the rate fell to just 56.4%.

Lead researcher Dr Sue Jordan, who acknowledged more research was required, said: “The potentially life-saving treatments to prevent bleeding after birth must not be compromised on the basis of this study but further studies are required to establish ways to minimise any effects on breastfeeding rates.”

 

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