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Birth drugs may discourage breast-feeding

Wednesday September 2nd, 2009

Professor Cathy Warwick
Professor Cathy Warwick

Women who receive large quantities of drugs during labour are less likely than others to breast-feed, researchers report today.

Researchers in Wales have linked two drugs to a reduction in breast-feeding.

The drugs are clotting agents, oxytocin and ergometrine, designed to stem bleeding. Oxytocin is a powerful hormone while ergometrine is chemically similar to LSD.

Researchers studied some 48,000 women for the research, due to be reported in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Researchers found that 79 per cent of the women received the drugs.

Use of the drug was linked to a seven per cent decline in the number of women breast-feeding 48 hours after giving birth. Some 56 per cent of women who received both drugs persisted with breast-feeding.

Researcher Dr Sue Jordan, of Swansea University, said: "The potentially life-saving treatments to prevent bleeding after birth must not be compromised on the basis of this study but further studies are required to establish ways to minimise any effects on breastfeeding rates."

The Royal College of Midwives also said that better support remained the way to improve breast-feeding rates - rather than ceasing use of the drugs.

General secretary Professor Cathy Warwick said: "We know that breastfeeding rates in the UK are among the lowest in Europe, particularly the duration of breastfeeding after six weeks.

"Whilst needing careful interpretation, this study contributes to our knowledge as to just one of the possible factors contributing to low breastfeeding rates. It also highlights how important it is to support the management of a mother's labour without the use of drugs wherever possible.

"However, many of the drugs that women are administered during labour, such as oxytocin and antibiotics, 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."

Tags: Child Health | Childbirth and Pregnancy | Pharmaceuticals | UK News | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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