Breastfeeding problems could be due to the drugs given during childbirth


Research that was recently published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, suggests that various painkillers and drugs that are usually given to women during labour may reduce their ability to breastfeed their baby. This could be a reason why the breastfeeding rates in the UK are the lowest in Europe with only 45% of babies being breastfed exclusively after birth. One in four are formula fed.

The Swansea team analysed data on more than 48,000 women who gave birth in South Wales.

They found use of the drugs oxytocin or ergometrine to cut the risk of hemorrhage 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, two-thirds (65.5%) started breastfeeding within 48 hours of giving birth.

But among those given a shot of oxytocin the breastfeeding rate was 59.1%, and among those who were given an additional injection of ergometrine the rate fell to just 56.4%.

Interestingly enough two thirds of the women who were involved in the study and gave birth between 1989 and 1999, that did not receive any hemorrhaging drugs breastfed their baby within 48 hours of giving birth. Those numbers were reduced to 59.1% after given an injection of oxytocin and dropped again to 56.4% after receiving an additional injection of ergometrine.

Dr Jordan said the study highlighted a pressing need for follow-up research.

She 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.

"In the meantime, what we would like to see would be provision of extra help for new mothers trying to establish breastfeeding by making sure to allow enough time for the effect of drugs given in labour to subside."

Obstetrician and spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Patrick O'Brien, found that the study was interesting but needed to be followed up closely.
He said: "This small possible effect on breastfeeding has to be balanced against the beneficial effects of these drugs, which are known to reduce the risk of heavy bleeding after birth from 18% to 6%.

"At the moment, I would say the benefits of using the drugs outweigh the theoretical downsides."

One of the policy research officers for the National Childbirth Trust, Rosemary Dodds added:
"A lot of women are not given enough information about the medications that might be given to them during childbirth, and women at low risk of bleeding may not need to take these drugs.

"It is important that women understand the risks and can give their informed consent before they go into labour."



Tracy said...

I agree, we should all be given the truth and then given the choice to make our own decisions.

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