Drugs given to women in labour to prevent postpartum haemorrhage could reduce their ability to breastfeed, latest research suggests.
Swansea University researchers studied more than 48,000 women who gave birth to healthy babies in South Wales between 1989 and 1999.
They found that use of the clotting agents oxytocin or ergometrine, which are routinely given to women to prevent bleeding after birth, was associated with a 7 per cent decline in the number of women who started breastfeeding within 48 hours of giving birth.
The study found that among women who were not given the drugs, 65% started breastfeeding within 48 hours.
However, this reduced to 59 per cent among those given an injection of oxytocin, and to 56 per cent among women given an additional injection of ergometrine to address bleeding.
The drugs may hamper a woman’s ability to produce milk, the researchers said online in the journal BJOG.
RCM general secretary, Cathy Warwick, said: “Whilst needing careful interpretation, this study contributes to our knowledge as one of the possible factors contributing to low breastfeeding rates. However, many of the drugs that women are administered during labour are important in managing labour and greatly contribute to ensuring the safety of mothers and their babies.
“All new mothers need positive support and encouragement to breastfeed, especially in the immediate period after giving birth. It is critical that maternity services are resourced to ensure that all women get high quality breastfeeding support,” she added.