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Labour drugs linked to breastfeeding problems

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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.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • It has been known for years that virtually all drugs (including epidurals) influence how well a mother is able to feed after birth so nothing new here really!

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  • Breastfeeding problems are affected by many things and yes I agree that labour drugs are one of the causes. But I fully believe that all problems can be over come with the correct support, whether that be on the labour wards or at home. Unfortunately for most of us mothers in the UK this support is practically non-existant. Maternity wards are short staffed and ill trained to support breastfeeding mothers whether it's your first time or 4th! Health visitors and GP's are no better trained to cope with the pressures of breastfeeding on both the mother and baby and at the first hurdle 'advise' that supplimenting with formula will do no harm. This then makes a woman question her ability to breastfeed effectively and will undoubtedly result in the mother stopping breastfeed before she is ready to do so, Just because a health professional told them so. This for me, is absolutely unexceptable and 2 days (if that) BFI training is nowhere near enough to allow sufficiant breastfeeding support. In a society where bottle feeding is the norm I feel that our health care workers from midwifes to GP's should be doing more to promote breastfeeding PRE-NATAL. All women, no matter what size or shape the breast, whether rich or poor, ARE ABLE to breastfeed and only with good, helpful and reasuring support will breastfeeding continue beyond any problems during the early days.

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