It’s a well known fact breastfeeding offers many benefits to both mothers and babies.
New research has now discovered women who have c-sections might get an extra benefit from breastfeeding.
As c-section mamas will tell you, there is a fair bit of pain to cope with after the surgery.
This can be really challenging for new mamas to deal with, especially when they are home and caring for a newborn.
Breastfeeding After C-Section Reduces Pain
According to research presented at the Euroanaesthesia Congress in Geneva in 2017, c-section mamas who breastfeed for at least two months after birth are three times less likely to experience chronic pain.
What Is Chronic Pain After C-section?
Most of us would expect to feel pain after having major abdominal surgery. We also expect to have a scar to remind us of the surgery, but we don’t expect ongoing pain.
Chronic pain is pain that continues beyond three months after surgery. It is difficult to know how many women have persistent pain post c-section, because it hasn’t really been studied.
Persistent pain after c-section can have long term effects on women. It interferes with daily activities and relationships, and increases the likelihood of depression or anxiety.
What Did The Study Find?
Researchers from Spain looked at 185 mothers who had a c-section between January 2015 and December 2016.
The mothers were interviewed about breastfeeding patterns and the level of chronic pain they had at the incision site in the first 24 and 72 hours after c-section, and again four months later.
The researchers also took into consideration the effect of other factors on chronic pain. These included surgical technique, pain during the first 24-72 hours, maternal education and occupation, and anxiety during breastfeeding.
Almost 90% of the mothers in the study breastfed their babies, and almost 60% breastfed for two or more months. The study results showed 22% of the mothers who breastfed for up to two months experienced chronic pain four months after the surgery compared with just 8% of mothers who breastfed for two or more months.
The researchers looked further at the data and found mothers with a university education were less likely to experience prolonged pain compared with those who weren’t educated at a tertiary level.
Over half of the mothers who breastfed reported suffering from anxiety, and the researchers are looking at further data to show, when combined with the results of this study, whether anxiety is linked to chronic pain after c-section.
What Does This Mean For Mothers?
C-section is one of the most common surgical procedures in the world. The procedure accounts for around 20-30% of births in countries like the US, UK and Australia.
This is despite the World Health Organization (WHO) and other leading health experts recommending c-section rates remain around 10-15% to gain the benefits of the surgery.
Breastfeeding provides many health benefits for both mothers and babies. The WHO recommends babies are breastfed within one hour of birth and continue to be exclusively fed breast milk for the first six months of life.
This is one of the few available studies that explore how breastfeeding can reduce a mother’s pain after a c-section.
It can be difficult to initiate breastfeeding after c-section, particularly if your hospital has certain policies about newborn care after surgery.
Discuss with your care provider the importance of early skin to skin and breastfeeding – not just for your baby’s health but your own wellbeing.