Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Women who conceive artificially are less likely to breastfeed, study finds

breastfeeding motherWomen who conceive using assisted reproductive technology (ART) like IVF are less likely to breastfeed, a recent study has found. 

The study, involving Prof Jane Fisher, Karin Hammarberg and Dr Karen Wynter from the Jean Hailes Research Unit,  concluded that for a variety of reasons, women who conceive artificially breastfeed their babies less, and for shorter periods of time, than women who conceive spontaneously. The study findings have appeared in ACTA PÆDIATRICA (Vol. 102; Iss.10; pp.970-76).

The World Health Organisation and UNICEF have recommended that breastfeeding be the sole source of nutrition for infants in the first 4-6 months of life.

Almost all women in the study intended to breastfeed for at least 6 months. However, by 4 months after birth, more than a third of ART women had ceased breastfeeding, and only 40% were breastfeeding exclusively.

One possible explanation is that women who conceive with medical assistance are twice as likely to require a caesarean as those who conceive spontaneously.

Breastfeeding rates are generally lower amongst women who have caesareans without going into labour first, suggesting that a trigger for milk production is part of the labour process.

Another factor is that women are less likely to breastfeed continuously if they do not breastfeed within the first hour of birth, which is difficult to do after a caesarean.

The study also postulates that a combination of ART treatment and a caesarean, especially if it is unwanted, can create anxiety in women, which discourages them from using breastfeeding over formula.

Some women, too, are unaware of the nutritional benefits of breastfeeding over formula.

The study suggests that health care should focus on reassuring, affirming, building self-confidence and promoting self-efficiency in women, along with providing clinical procedures. This could help educate women who are unaware of the health benefits of breastfeeding, as well as ridding women of some of their anxiety.

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