Researchers found that mothers who breastfed their babies for at least two months after having a caesarean delivery were three times less likely to experience continual pain than those who breastfed for less than two months.
The research, which was presented at the 2017 Euroanaesthesia Congress in Geneva, involved interviewing 185 mothers who underwent a caesarean section. The new mums were asked about breastfeeding patterns and their level of pain around the site of the incision in the first 24 hours, 72 hours after the C-section, and additionally 4 months later.
Study author Carmen Alicia Vargas Berenjeno and her colleagues also analysed how factors, such as surgical technique, a mother’s education and occupation, and anxiety during breastfeeding, might play a role in influencing chronic pain.
Breastfeeding was taken up by 87% of the mothers, and 58% of those mums breastfed their babies for at least two months. Around 11.4% of mothers reported experiencing chronic pain after C-section.
The researchers found that the rate of chronic pain was higher among mothers who breastfed for a shorter duration. On further investigation, the team found that mothers who had a university education were at a reduced risk of experiencing chronic pain at four months after C-section.
The study also revealed that more than half of the breastfeeding mothers reported experiencing anxiety, which they believe might affect the risk of chronic pain.
“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,” study authors revealed in a statement.
“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.”
Recent statistics reveal that C-sections account for around a quarter of all births in the UK. While the benefits of breastfeeding for babies have been widely discussed and recent studies have revealed a link between breastfeeding and lower risk of endometrial cancer, until now little has been known about the effect breastfeeding can have on a mother’s experience of chronic pain after a caesarean.
According to the National Institutes of Health, any pain lasting longer than 12 weeks is considered chronic.