Breastfeeding may help with caesarean pain, says new study

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Breastfeeding after a caesarean section may help manage persistent pain, new research has found.

Mums who underwent a caesarean section and breastfed for at least two months following surgery were three times less likely to experience chronic pain compared to those who nursed for under two months.

As part of the study, presented at the annual Euroanaesthesia Congress in Geneva, 185 mums from a Spanish hospital were interviewed about their breastfeeding patterns and the level of pain they experienced at the surgical site at three different time points: the first 24 hours after the caesarean section, 72 hours after and four months post-partum.

Lead author Dr Carmen Alicia Vargas Berenjeno and her colleagues found that of the women who participated, 87 per cent breastfed their babies, with 58 per cent nursing for two months or longer.

When it came to pain post-surgery, 23 per cent of mums who breastfed for two months or less experienced chronic pain in the surgical site four months after the delivery.

In contrast, of those who breastfed for two months or longer, only 8 per cent still reported persistent pain.

"These preliminary results suggest that breastfeeding for more than two months protects against chronic post-caesarean pain, with a three-fold increase in the risk of chronic pain if breastfeeding is only maintained for two months or less," the researchers said in a statement. "Our study provides another good reason to encourage women to breastfeed."

The team are currently exploring the link between anxiety and chronic post-caesarean section pain, with early results suggesting there may be a significant association. Over half of nursing mums in the study reported suffering from anxiety.

"It's possible that anxiety during breastfeeding could influence the likelihood of pain at the surgical site four months after the operation," the authors note.

In Australia, more than 30 per cent of all babies are born by caesarean section, with the figure closer to 40 per cent in private hospitals.

For information around breastfeeding following a caesarean section, visit the Australian Breastfeeding Association's fact sheet here.