- Breastfeeding after a C-section may help manage pain.
- One in 5 mothers experience chronic pain lasting for more than 3 months after C-section.
- Mothers who breastfed their babies for at least 2 months after the operation are three times less likely to experience persistent pain.
Breastfeeding poses benefits to the mother as well as the child but a lesser known association is the link between a C-section and pain management.
C-sections account for around a quarter of all births in the UK, USA, and Canada. Chronic pain (lasting for more than 3 months) after C-section affects around 1 in 5 mothers.
‘Anxiety during breastfeeding could influence the likelihood of pain at the surgical site 4 months after the operation.’
Breastfeeding Helps Reduce Pain After C-section
Breastfeeding after a caesarean section (C-section) may help manage pain, with mothers who breastfed their babies for at least 2 months after the operation three times less likely to experience persistent pain compared to those who breastfed for less than 2 months, according to new research being presented at this year's Euroanaesthesia Congress in Geneva.
It is widely accepted that breast milk is the most important and appropriate nutrition in early life, and WHO, the UK Department of Health, and US Department of Health and Human Services all recommend exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
- Breastfeeding helps to burn calories, which results in weight reduction.
- Breastfeeding is also known to help in the process of shrinking the uterus.
- Additionally, studies have indicated that nursing mothers who breastfeed have lower risk of premenopausal breast cancer, decreased risk of uterine and ovarian cancer.
- Breastfeeding reduces the risk of postpartum depression. The emotional health of the mother is enhanced by the relationship she develops with her infant during breastfeeding.
- Breastfeeding is linked to a lower risk of type-2 diabetes and osteoporosis.
- Breastfeeding helps space subsequent pregnancies.
The study, by Dr Carmen Alicia Vargas Berenjeno and colleagues from the Hospital Universitario Nuestra Señora de Valme in Sevilla, Spain, included 185 mothers who underwent a C-section at the hospital between January 2015 and December 2016.
Mothers 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 4 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%) of the mothers in the study breastfed their babies, with over half (58%) reporting breastfeeding for two months or longer.
- Around 1 in 4 (23%) of the mothers who breastfed for two months or less still experienced chronic pain in the surgical site 4 months post-op compared to just 8% of those who breastfed for 2 months or longer.
- Mothers with a university education were much less likely to experience persistent pain compared to those who were less well educated.
- Over half (54%) of mothers who breastfed reported suffering from anxiety.
The authors conclude: "These preliminary results suggest that breastfeeding for more than 2 months protects against chronic post-caesarean pain, with a three-fold increase in the risk of chronic pain if breastfeeding is only maintained for 2 months or less."
Our study provides another good reason to encourage women to breastfeed. It's possible that anxiety during breastfeeding could influence the likelihood of pain at the surgical site 4 months after the operation."
The authors are currently analysing additional data from women interviewed between November 2016 to January 2017, which, when combined with data from all the other women, shows that anxiety is associated with chronic post Caesarean pain in a statistically significant way.
- Carmen Alicia Vargas Berenjeno et al., Breastfeeding may protect against chronic pain after Caesarean section, Meeting-Euroanaesthesia (2017).