Women who have epidurals during labour and childbirth are more likely to have problems breastfeeding in the first week than those who do not, new research shows.
The study of 1280 Australian women, published in the International Breastfeeding Journal, also showed they were more likely to give up breastfeeding before six months, compared with women who had no analgesia.
Of the women studied between March and October 1997, 33 per cent had an epidural during the birth of their baby, 41 per cent of whom also had a caesarean section.
While most (93 per cent) breastfed 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. 72 per cent of drug-free women were breastfeeding at 24 weeks, compared with 53 per cent who received pethidine or epidurals containing bupivacaine and fentanyl (an opiod).
Sue Jordan, senior lecturer in applied therapeutics, Swansea University called for extra support to be offered to the most vulnerable women to ensure their infants are not disadvantaged by 'adverse drug reaction'.
International Breastfeeding Journal 2006; 1: 24