We noticed you're blocking ads.

Keep supporting great journalism by turning off your ad blocker.

Questions about why you are seeing this? Contact us

Font Size

- Aa +

Mon 1 Jan 2007 10:32 AM

Font Size

- Aa +

Epidurals impact breastfeeding rates

Epidurals given during labour and birth are linked to decreased rates of breastfeeding, both in the short and long term, suggesting a positive association between intrapartum analgesia and feeding infant formula, report Australian researchers.

Epidurals given during labour and birth are linked to decreased rates of breastfeeding, both in the short and long term, suggesting a positive association between intrapartum analgesia and feeding infant formula, report Australian researchers.

The large cohort study of Australian women, published in the open access International Breastfeeding Journal, found that women who had epidurals during childbirth were more likely to have breastfeeding problems in the first week and to give up breastfeeding before six months, compared with women who had no analgesia.

Siranda Torvaldsen, from the University of Sydney, and colleagues from other institutions in Australia studied 1280 women who had given birth between March and October 1997 in the Australian Capital Territory. Of these women, 416 (33%) had an epidural during the birth of their baby, 172 (41%) of whom also had a caesarean section.

The results from Torvaldsen et al show that, although most (93%) women breastfed their baby in the first week, epidural anaesthesia was significantly associated with difficulty breastfeeding in the few days after birth and with partial breastfeeding in the first week after delivery.

In addition, the 416 women who had epidurals were twice as likely to completely stop breastfeeding before six months compared with women who used no analgesia, after controlling for maternal age and education. 72% of women who had no analgesia were breastfeeding at 24 weeks compared with 53% who received pethidine or epidurals containing bupivacaine and fentanyl (an opioid).

The authors wrote: "There is a growing body of evidence that the fentanyl component of epidurals may be associated with sleepy infants and difficult establishing breastfeeding.

"Whatever the underlying mechanism, it is important that women who are at higher risk of breastfeeding cessation are provided with adequate breastfeeding assistance and support, both in the initial postpartum period [just after birth] and the following few months."

The authors conclude that this study adds to the growing body of evidence that the fentanyl component of epidurals may be associated with difficulty establishing breastfeeding.

In an accompanying editorial, Sue Jordan, senior lecturer in applied therapeutics at Swansea University, UK, regards the effect of opioids and epidurals on breastfeeding as an "adverse drug reaction".

Commenting on the study findings, she calls for "extra support to be offered to the most vulnerable women, to ensure that their infants are not disadvantaged by this hidden, but far-reaching, adverse drug reaction".

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

For all the latest health tips & news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
Real news, real analysis and real insight have real value – especially at a time like this. Unlimited access ArabianBusiness.com can be unlocked for as little as $4.75 per month. Click here for more details.