Another Advantage of Breastfeeding: Reduced Risk of Endometriosis

Another Advantage of Breastfeeding: Reduced Risk of Endometriosis

by Julia Samuel on  September 5, 2017 at 2:09 PM Health Watch
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Highlights
  • Women who breastfed for longer periods of time had significantly lower risk of being diagnosed with endometriosis.
  • Risk of endometriosis dropped 14 percent for every three additional months of exclusive breastfeeding per pregnancy.
  • Oxytocin, estrogen, gonadotropin-releasing hormone secreted during breastfeeding might protect from endometriosis.
Breastfeeding the baby soon after birth till the baby turns 1 or 2 in some cases and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months is one of the most commonly given advice for a mother-to-be.
Another Advantage of Breastfeeding: Reduced Risk of Endometriosis

This advice not only is essential for the baby but also for the mother. A new study by investigators at Brigham and Women's Hospital finds that women who breastfed for longer periods of time had significantly lower risk of being diagnosed with endometriosis.

Breastfeeding Lowers Risk of Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a chronic and incurable gynecologic disorder that affects approximately 10 percent of women in the United States. Its symptoms can be debilitating and include chronic pelvic pain, painful periods and pain during intercourse.

The disease has very limited modifiable risk factors. The study points out that breastfeeding can be an important modifiable behavior to reduce the risk of endometriosis among women after pregnancy. "We found that women who breastfed for a greater duration were less likely to be diagnosed with endometriosis," said corresponding author Leslie Farland, ScM, ScD, a research scientist at the Center for Infertility and Reproductive Surgery at BWH.

The team used data from the Nurses' Health Study II (NHSII), a prospective cohort study that began in 1989. In the current analysis, researchers followed thousands of women for more than 20 years.

During that time period, 3,296 women in the study were surgically diagnosed with endometriosis after their first pregnancy. The research team examined how long each woman breastfed, exclusively breastfed (breastfed without the introduction of solid food or formula), and how much time passed before their first postpartum period.

The team found that
  • For every three additional months that mothers breastfed per pregnancy, women experienced an 8 percent drop in risk of endometriosis.
  • Risk of endometriosis dropped 14 percent for every three additional months of exclusive breastfeeding per pregnancy.
  • Women who breastfed exclusively for 18 months or more across their reproductive lifetime had a nearly 30 percent lower risk of being diagnosed with endometriosis.


Mechanism Behind The Reduced Risk

Postpartum amenorrhea - the temporary absence of menstrual periods that occurs when a woman is breastfeeding, might be one possible factor that reduced the risk of endometriosis. But it was not the case for all of the subjects.

Oxytocin, estrogen, gonadotropin-releasing hormone secreted during breastfeeding might protect from endometriosis.

Although there is a robust association between breastfeeding and lower risk of endometriosis, it is not clear whether women who breastfeed are less likely to develop the disease itself, or whether women who breastfeed are less likely to experience pain symptoms severe enough to indicate a surgical evaluation.

The study did not include women who had been diagnosed with endometriosis prior to their first pregnancy, but the researchers are interested in investigating whether breastfeeding could help ease the symptoms of endometriosis for women who already have been diagnosed with the disease.

"Our work has important implications for advising women who are looking to lower their risk of endometriosis. We hope that future research will illuminate whether breastfeeding could help lessen the symptoms of endometriosis among women who have already been diagnosed."

Reference
  1. Leslie Farland et al., Breastfeeding reduces risk of endometriosis diagnosis, British Medical Journal (2017).


Source: Medindia

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Endometriosis Primary Amenorrhea Hormone Replacement Therapy Pelvic Pain in Women Lifestyle Factors that Improve Fertility 

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